By Rabbi Stuart Dauermann
VIEWING THE RABBI AS A SURROGATE PRIEST: A USEFUL TETHER
The model or paradigm of the rabbi as a surrogate priest may be compared to a stake driven into biblical and Jewish ground with a tether connecting the stake to a rabbi. The tether attached to that stake and to the rabbi establish a trajectory and set limits so that the rabbi’s functions are defined by the circumference the model makes available.
It should be noted that the tether is not short, but is long enough to provide a wide range of freely-chosen functions within which the rabbi may operate. Enabling rabbis to move freely within a circumscribed range, this tether provides both freedom to range widely and the opportunity to specialize—to choose to remain in a given area due to preference, giftedness, training, or contextual factors. In this regard, it is helpful to picture the circular arc around the stake as segmented into the various discrete functions identified within the rabbi as surrogate priest model. This we have done in our diagram.
Some rabbis, due to a combination of gifting, training, preference, and circumstance, will more widely operate within the segment of teaching. Others will more chiefly operate within the segment of facilitating worship, or of helping people whose lives are disrupted in some manner. Others will specialize in other segments. Not only will rabbis operate more frequently in one or more segments due to gifting, skills, training and circumstance, they will also operate within different segments at different stages of their career, as differing occasions warrant in a given congregation, or may operate in a different segment in one congregational context and a different segment in another. For example, one context may require of a rabbi more of an emphasis on counseling those in need, while another congregation may call for a greater emphasis on being a public spokesperson.
The Rabbi as Surrogate Priest Tether Model nicely combines the biblical and Jewish rootedness of the rabbinate, restraining the rabbinate from breaking loose so that the rabbinate becomes whatever one chooses to make it, without restraint. It also serves to keep our leadership model and leadership training in biblical and Jewish space, restraining us from always operating in our neighbor's back yard—in this case either rummaging through evangelicalism or being overly culturally derivative with respect to the general culture.
Jewish religious living involves a constant interplay between keva, which means the received orderly way of doing things, and kavana, the factor of personal investment and intentionality. This is the dialectic between limits and freedom. And in that sense, the Jewish religious way of life involves exercising freedom within limits. Without the limits, there is no Judaism, and without the freedom there is no life. Therefore, Jewish living necessarily involves both factors in this dialectic.1
The paradigm of the Rabbi as Surrogate Priest as a tether embodies this Jewish dialectic. May we all range freely within the limits set before us, and in the midst of it all, may we know before whom we stand.
1See Seth Kadish, Kavvana: Directing the Heart in Jewish Prayer (1997) for an in depth discussion of keva and kavvana specifically within the context of discussion on the proper conduct of Jewish communal prayer.
Slight expansion on the sixteen functions in the diagram to clarify matters.
Against the background of this research, the contributions of respondents, and research supplemental to the text questions, the functions performed by the rabbi as a surrogate priest may be described in the following expanded form.
The rabbi as a surrogate priest performs the following functions:
- Serves as a custodian of Israel’s revelation and traditions
- Teaches Israel the ways of God as embodied in the revelation and traditions
- Models fidelity to God, the revelation and the traditions
- Advises the community on matters of ritual life
- Acts as a judge in disputes
- Coordinates financial and logistical matters pertaining to the community
- Facilitates the community’s worship of God
- Expedites rites of passage
- Seeks to insure that the presence of God continues to abide with the community and its members, by serving as a spiritual director, coach and mentor
- Helps the community and its members when life is disrupted (as by crisis, sin or disease).This is the counseling and healing function of the rabbi
- Is a catalyst in outreach and conversion
- Serves as a spokesperson for the congregation, the Jewish people, and Judaism to the outside world
- Speaks blessing and strength to the congregation and its members from the symbolic exemplar aspect of the rabbinic role
- Offers to God prayers as service of the heart, if necessary offers his/her life for the sanctification of the Divine Name, and presents his/her holy studies as a surrogate priestly sacrifice
- Intercedes for himself/herself, his/her family, for his/her congregation, the people of Israel, the nations, and the cosmos as an agent in the Divine consummation of all things
- Leads his/her congregation.
 In the Messianic Jewish context this would of course include revelation and traditions explicitly embodying our response to Yeshua and the Apostolic Writings.