Last night, with the support of many of you, I began my studies for a Certificate in Jewish Leadership offered by the Spertus Institute and Northwestern University.
You may be interested to know that Judaism has a well-developed theory of leadership and one of the hallmarks of that theory is the separation of powers. In classical Jewish thought there are three ketarim or “crowns” which are separate spheres of authority: keter malkhut, the “Crown of Kingship” which means civil authority; keter kehuna, the “Crown of Priesthood” which means ceremonial authority; and keter Torah, the “Crown of Torah” which means the authority to interpret and teach the tradition as a vehicle of God’s will. In a well-run system, all three of these ketarim work together for the benefit of the people but no one person is supposed to embody all three.
The implications of this theory for rabbis and synagogues is significant. Many congregants view the rabbi as CEO of the synagogue. Some congregations explicitly give that title and responsibility to the rabbi and others do not but even if the rabbi is not formally the CEO it often happens that rabbis become responsible for all kinds of things that they were not trained to do and are not particularly good at or interested in.
The real work of a rabbi in a synagogue today is a combination of keter kehuna and keter Torah. When we officiate at life cycle events or services, we are in some ways fulfilling the same role that the Kohanim filled in the ancient Temple. (As you probably know I actually happen to be a Kohen but the role of the actual Kohanim is vestigial since the destruction of the Temple and my being a Kohen is completely independent of my being a rabbi.)
But for most rabbis the heart of their work is keter Torah. Most rabbis become rabbis because they love to learn Torah (which we spent five or six years doing in rabbinical school) and having learned, we now want to share what we have learned and make it the heritage of all Jews. It’s why I love teaching my Adult Education classes, it’s why I put a lot of time and thought into my drashot, it’s one of the reasons why I write these thrice-weekly emails, and it’s also the reason that twice in the past five years I have enrolled in distance-learning certificate programs to continue to learn in order to teach more effectively.
As I wrote last week, I will be restarting my Thursday night Adult Education classes soon, with the first Rashi class on Thursday Oct. 21 and Contemporary Jewish Controversies returning on October 28. I have been teaching the weekly Torah portion with Rashi’s commentary now for about 7 years but with classes being suspended over the summer and not restarting until after the Fall holidays, I have never taught the portions that occur during that time frame. So this year instead of looking at the coming week’s readings we will be looking at Rashi’s commentary on the book of Deuteronomy. The Rashi class will be the first and third Thursdays of the month and Contemporary Jewish Controversies the second and fourth Thursdays. If there is a fifth Thursday in a particular calendar month there will be no class that night.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian