10. Prayer is offered directly to God.

Each Jew has a personal relationship with God that does not require an intermediary. Judaism does not place any special sacramental status upon the rabbi. A rabbi may serve as a priest, but it is only one of the many facets of the rabbi’s role. In fact, most rabbis would acknowledge that they are not inherently “holier” or even more “in touch with God” than those congregants who take Judaism seriously – however they define that. Indeed, although rabbis usually lead Jewish Services, cantors and other Jewish spiritual leaders may also lead Jewish Services.

Despite these theological truths, the words and prayers of rabbis are often viewed as holier and on a faster-track to God. In part, this perception evolved because rabbis are closely associated with Judaism’s sacred texts, traditions, symbols, rites and rituals and in part, it evolved because rabbis are seen as having specialized knowledge in interpreting God’s will.32  Since, “perception is often reality,” the theological truth that a rabbi’s prayers are not actually holier than the prayers of a congregant takes second place. The practical reality is that many congregants - in synagogues, hospitals, senior care centers, and other places where rabbis serve pastorally - believe that the rabbi is closer and more connected to God than they are. In the minds of many Jews, the rabbi is “God’s representative,”33 the one who presents, re-presents, or represents God to them during their time of vulnerability and crisis.

© 2004 , Bonita E Taylor & David J. Zucker

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