We live in an age of radical autonomy and permeable social boundaries. Ever since the Enlightenment, rabbis no longer possess the political authority, inclination or time to check up on what Jews are and aren’t doing. The only thing a rabbi or any religious leader can command in this day and age is respect. Every rabbi knows that that the choices of his or her congregants make are ultimately their own. We all understand that as congregational leaders what we say or do may result in a congregant leaving our community. As leaders called on to serve a community, we are all aware of the tipping point whereby the gap between us and our congregants may widen to the point of finding ourselves out of a job.
Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, “All A Rabbi Can Command These Days Is Respect”, The Jewish Week (28 March 2014), 30-31.