…an ongoing struggle that many rabbis and clergy of various faiths wage within themselves. We strive to find the proper balance between being so principled on the one hand that we are unyielding as a hard nutshell, or so flexible on the other that we are like spiritual marshmallows. When shall we insist on the verities absorbed from books and professors at seminary, and when should we, instead, create opportunities through which the seeking and searching can find comfort?
Locating that exact balance is a complex process. In addition to the voices of his or her teachers, the rabbi sometimes hears contradictory sounds — sometimes described as “the voice of the prophet” or sometimes “the voice of the profit.”
Religious conscience is shaped by the hoary dictums of biblical and Talmudic passages. But the wherewithal to materially provide for one’s own community is provided by the congregation, logically concerned about budgets and attracting members. The former voice urges principled and hard stands; the latter insists on compromise, occasionally to the point of religious illegitimacy.
The role of the suburban rabbi in 2015 is to serve as a spiritual mapmaker on a personal level. He or she must sketch diverse routes that may assist one person or another, and even the same person in different stages of a lifetime.
Gerald Zelizer, “A Rabbi Learns From His Mistakes”, The Jewish Week (12 June 2015), 42.