Should a rabbi speak about controversial matters to his congregation such as having big families, tznius, the truth about the State of Israel and things like that if he’ll run the risk of being expelled from his position?
Should a rabbi run the risk of being expelled by talking about matters that the congregation doesn’t want to hear?
And the answer is that it’s the job of a rabbi to win his people over gradually. So it’s not good sense that the first Shabbos that he speaks he should immediately talk about things that anger the people; because what will he accomplish when he is outside, when he is on the other side of the door? So therefore, let him first bring the people in and celebrate with them Shabbos, shalosh seudos, melave malkah, simchas yom tov; let him show the happiness, the good times. Let him explain the hashkafa of Torah and little by little let them develop a pride of being Jews,
After a while, these people themselves will be more amenable. Now, it might take years but it’s worth it. I know a rabbi who had a congregation, a choshuve congregation, and after three years he became so disgusted that he left; he went to Eretz Yisroel. I told him he made an error. He should have remained. It’s just a question of time when you will win out. First of all, the malach hamavess is a תניא דמסייע ליה – the old ones in the course of time will stop being members. Secondly, some of the people are going to leave. The undesirable ones will leave anyhow. They won’t like your tone — undesirable ones leave eventually and better ones will take their place; better ones will be attracted after a while. And in the course of the time, you’ll see what’s going to happen.
I remember years ago – this was about twenty years ago – I was urging a young man to go into the rabbinate. He said to me, “If I had a congregation like yours, I’d go in.” I told him what the Chasam Sofer said. The Chasam Sofer once urged a Jew to go into the rabbonus so this Jew said, “If had a kehilla like Pressburg, I’d go into it.” The Chasam Sofer told him, “I also didn’t have a kehilla like Pressburg. When I became a rav, it wasn’t a kehilla like Pressburg. It became Pressburg subsequently.” It took a lot of work. There were a lot of rich Jews in Pressburg and they were all leaning to the Reform in those days; they were all interested in Reform. The Chasam Sofer, little by little, got them into the right mood and it became a yeshiva town. And today when you say Pressburg, we think about the Pressburger Yeshiva.
And so, every rabbi has to make it his business to develop his kehilla. Of course, if he can get a very good kehilla in the beginning he should take it; but if he gets any kind of kehilla he should dedicate himself to winning them over. Of course, if he has to break laws of the Torah in the beginning – nothing doing! There should be no concessions, no yielding! But if it’s possible to come in without any open breach of the Torah, only that he has to guard his tongue for the first few years and be diplomatic, that’s his job; it’s the ratzon Hashem to do that.
TAPE # 364 (June 1981)