The half life of a good sermon is like the half life of a good meal. Each Rabbi spends a tremendous amount of time preparing for the high holidays. Then we give the sermons and they are gone. Perhaps they linger with some congregants, but the obligations of life intervene.
For those who regularly attend services, perhaps the sermons linger. For those who participate in programs in the synagogue, the message might endure. But what of others?
Here, strangely enough, is where I believe social media can make a difference. For the past several months I've carried on a sort of Facebook experiment. No gossip, no trivia, just serious issues. Would people engage in modern, sophisticated religious discussions on Facebook?
The results are that these issues are on people's minds and they like the ease of musing about God, about fate, about self-knowledge and wonder and transitions in a virtual community. Throughout the year I've identified topics to talk about: ethics, Israel, relationships -- all with a religious valence. Places like the Huffington Post, Facebook pages, all the media that we deride, are actually rejuvenating religious discussion.
For centuries people have walked out of synagogue thinking "Boy I'd like to tell the Rabbi a thing or two about that sermon." Sometimes it was supportive, often critical. But now the sermons are online, the Facebook page is available, and to the Rabbi's delight or chagrin, that congregant can offer a piece of her or his mind. It is a brave new-old world. Through the new media, we can take Torah to the streets. Or more accurately, to the screens. Hallelujah.
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