Ask the Rabbis: What's a Rabbi's Role in Modern America?


In the United States, labels -- including that of rabbi -- mean less than anywhere else in the world: Jews are, thank G-d, seeking that which is meaningful to them, presented in an authentic and uncontrived way. The advantage of being a Chabad House or pulpit rabbi is the ability to cultivate growth in a person, a growth compounded by understanding and trust, only developed through consistent contact over an extended period of time. The more experience you have in a given community, the more attuned you are to the crucial subtleties of its members' needs. As a responder on's Ask-the-Rabbi team, I am able to meaningfully serve a worldwide congregation while connecting them directly with their own communities. At Chabad at Harvard, the web renders us available to our students and alumni wherever in the space-time continuum they may fall. The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that every advance in human knowledge is driven by divine providence. Its purpose is to enhance our ability to make our world a place where G-dliness finds a home. The ubiquity of Judaic knowledge on the web is a prime example of this. With the web, Judaic knowledge reaches untold numbers who would never have been connected. People acquire knowledge of Judaic practice on the web and seek out "bricks-and-mortar-rabbis" to participate.

Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe, Scholar-in-Residence, The Chabad House at Harvard, Boston, MA

This article was first published at Moment Magazine a Patheos Partner, and is reprinted with permission.

6/1/2010 4:00:00 AM
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  • About Alonzo L. Gaskill
    Alonzo L. Gaskill is an author, editor, theologian, lecturer, and professor of World Religions. He holds degrees in philosophy, theology, and biblical studies. He has authored more than two-dozen books and numerous articles on various aspects of religion; with topics ranging from world religions and interfaith dialogue, to scriptural commentaries, texts on symbolism, sacred space, and ritual, and even devotional literature.