[Avodah] Are We Trying to Grow?

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Mon Apr 19 13:09:52 PDT 2021

We seem to be conflating growth with other things.

When a rabbi sermonizes about current events, does it foster growth?

What if he explains the parashah, but not in terms relevant to how to live

Or if he gives a nice homily, which leaves people nodding and feeling
inspired, but not actually moved to do something differently an hour

Then there is what RYGB identified as The Pinnocchio Problem:
    We have a problem. This problem struck me the other day when I
    heard a distinguished Rav delivering Mussar to his congregation. The
    congregants have heard this particular message before, they will hear
    it again, and they recognize the truth that underlies the Rav's
    plaint. Yet I am sure the Rav and the congregants both know that this
    is a never-ending, ongoing, ritual. The problem will remain. The
    derashos will be reiterated. Olam k'minhago noheig. What is going
    on here?
People like having an externalized yeitz hatov, to whom they pay tribute
but never have to actually internalize and take heed. (The opposite
of Adam, who got to do the right thing if he would just ignore an
externalized yeitzer hara...)

The Shabbos morning derashah rarely has to do with growth.

Here are some idea I would have in a growth oriented shul:

1- A short thought about something in the siddur before davening. Between
Pesuqei deZimra and Borkhu, if permissible. Arguably a thought about
tefillah isn't a hefseiq in the sense meant when one it between
matbei'os. Like when appeals and calls for eidim were made at this time.)

2- Given the number of ADD people nowadays... Move the Qiddush up to
overlap the Derashah. Do like the yeshivos did and have a short seder
before continuing.

3- Chessed programming -- something that involves some subset of the
membership hands-on (not fundraising) in an at least weekly basis. Shuls
provide both Torah and Avodah, why not be a full Judaism Center and
provide opportunities for Gemilus Chassadim too? At least if the shul
sponsors something, there is a different atmosphere about what a shul
and Yahadus are.

3- Mussar Ve'adim -- one for each gender. The idea isn't just to have
a chaburah in a mussar sefer, but to have a group that actually works
together on their middos. (One of my dreams is to get to the point
where a shul running a va'ad is as common as one hosting a daf yomi
shiur is today.)

4- Along similar lines as the ve'adim -- a Teshuvah Workshop with a wider
audience every Elul. Speakers giving actual techniques for change. Rather
than being all motivated and well intended, if we're having a good year,
on Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, but not having a strategy to actually get
anywhere. (And then we wonder why our list of things to fix is the same
year after year...)

5- The membership agreement would include an ethics and dina demalkhusa
clauses. In the "Shomerei Shabbos" type shuls of 70 years ago, those
who were fighting upstream to retain their Shabbos observance created a
supporting atmosphere by creating synagogues in in which only shomerei
Shabbos could retain full membership in the shul. We need something
similar to shore up what's weak in today's observance.

Admittedly, this is largely unenforceable, as we're not going to have
accountants check people's books. But it combines with the chessed
programming and the ve'adim. I realize both of those programs would in
the real world be limited in population; but to the majority of the
membership, they make a statement. There is secondary involvement --
helping out once, donating money, just reading about it in the shul
email -- that make an impact on everyone, they, like this clause in the
agreement, set a culture.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Today is the 22nd day, which is
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   3 weeks and 1 day in/toward the omer.
Author: Widen Your Tent      Chesed sheb'Netzach: Do I take control of the
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF               situation for the benefit of others?

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