“The difference between listening to a radio sermon and going to church…is almost like the difference between calling your girl on the phone and spending an evening with her.” – Dwight L. Moody
I admit that I’m a narcoleptic when it comes to Rabbi’s sermons. There is something about a Rabbi’s voice that is often soothing to the point of unconsciousness. Once in a while, if I’m particularly well rested, or if the speaker is particularly entertaining, I manage to pay attention and join in on that aspect of the communal experience.
However, nowhere in the prayer book does it say: “Rabbi speaks here.” The liturgy does not request or even suggest the Rabbi pontificate in front of a captive audience. Some congregations have even done away with the Rabbi’s sermon.
The Ohr Hachayim, however, felt very strongly about the Rabbi’s sermon and claims that it is actually at the level of a command. He learns it from the gathering Moses convenes (Exodus 35:1) and explains that just as Moses gathered the children of Israel to give them a sermon, so too we are obligated to congregate every Sabbath and listen to the Rabbi’s sermon. He even claims that such an endeavor has a redemptive effect upon the congregation.
May we have opportunity to hear our Rabbi’s sermons and have the strength to listen to them.
To the now forgotten William Eugene Blackstone, author of the proto-Zionist Blackstone Memorial of 1891, one of the earliest Christian Zionists, who was heavily influenced by Dwight L. Moody, quoted above. Blackstone had a strong positive impact on the international Zionist effort, leading to the eventual establishment of the State of Israel.