Nathan Bigman

Why rabbis are such great leaders and politicians

Here’s the secret: they’re not.

Sure, there are exceptions — there are so many rabbis that there are bound to be a few gems. Naturally, some are experts in their own fields, such as conversion, marital law, and kashrut, and they work to make life easier for the Jewish people. Some are experts but try to shut down every possible leniency. Some are natural born politicians and Jewish leaders outside the confines of Jewish law. Respect.

But having a rabbinic degree doesn’t automatically grant you some amazing non-halachic insights that you should share with…anyone. Here’s proof.

To become a rabbi in the Israeli rabbinate, you have to take a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 11 tests in these subjects: Shabbat, what is forbidden/allowed (kosher laws), menstrual law, “celebrations” (laws of mourning), eruvin (impossible to translate), marital law, ritual baths, commandments connected to The Land, prayers and blessings, Passover/yom tov/intermediary days, and holidays. See them in the Hebrew source here.

What’s striking about this list is the lack of examination on government, politics, the fate of the Jewish people, or the will of God. So if a group of rabbis sign a letter about one of those things, say, a letter telling you to use all possible means to prevent a particular coalition from taking office, it’s about as meaningful as a letter signed by a group of plumbers, but less useful. At least the latter might help you find a decent plumber.

And don’t get me started on rabbis telling you whom to vote for. Sometimes it’s a dead rabbi, worshiped as a god by his adherents.

Dear Rabbis. Even small, ill-gotten power carries great responsibility. God is not talking to you. No matter how long you stand in prayer with your hands out and your eyes closed, it’s still a one-way conversation. Be smart, and be quiet.

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1, Mishna 17: Shimon his son said: All my days I have grown up among the sages and I have not found anything as good for the body as silence.

To be fair, that also applies to bloggers.

About the Author
Nathan Bigman is the author of the book Shut Up and Eat (How to quietly become a triplitarian) .
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