Nov 6, 2012
The Rabbi Who Said No to the Web
Prominent Johannesburg Rabbi Yossy Goldman once declined sharing his sermons via the web, and says he's regretted it ever since.
By COLlive reporter
Believe it or not, there was a time when one of the most prominent rabbis in South Africa said no to his work appearing on the internet.
And Rabbi Yossy Goldman regrets it ever since.
"I truly regret not taking him up on his invitation all those years ago," the rabbi of the Sydenham Shul, the largest synagogue in Johannesburg, said about the offer to share his sermons on the web.
In his defense, Goldman said it was in the 1990's, "long before I knew what the Internet was," when Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kazen would nudge him to send his Shabbos sermons to be posted on the "World Wide Web."
"At that stage, I honestly had no idea what he was talking about and dismissed his aspirations as unrealistic idealism and wistful daydreaming," Goldman says.
By the time Kazen passed away in 1998 at the young age of 44, "YY" had become acknowledged as the “Father of the Jewish Internet,” and his pioneering work created what is now known as mega Judaism site Chabad.org.
Goldman eventually took Kazen (who had become his brother-in-law) up on his offer, and on his suggestion began writing the Weekly Sermonette which was published on Chabad.org over a period of some 3 years, garnering much praise and a loyal following.
"It has been most humbling to see these writings so well received," Rabbi Goldman says. It is used "by rabbis and lay people alike, Jews of all persuasions and many non-Jews too. They are used in pulpits and in printed community newsletters. I myself have used them for many broadcasts on television and radio."
They are even being translated into a variety of languages including Hebrew, Spanish, Russian, French and German.
"I will venture to suggest that the reason for their popularity is that these ideas, which may vary in their degree of depth, are always put across in a style which is simple and straightforward. They are also relevant ideas that speak to people in the real world," Goldman says.
One of the keys to a good sermon is the advice given by the long-time pulpit Rabbi David Hollander OBM: The important factor is not the medrash (the talk), but the mase'le (the story or joke included in the talk).
Those sermons and essays are now bound in a new book titled "From Where I Stand: Life Messages from the Weekly Torah Reading" published by KTAV Publishing House.
In a Foreword written by Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, he writes: "I have known Reb Yossy for many years as a gifted speaker and outstanding orator. He is a master at relating the Parsha to the contemporary scene and Jewish life today. Fluid and fascinating, riveting and relevant... succor for the soul."
But Rabbi Goldman does not forget dismissing that original offer by Rabbi Kazen. "If I did, I might have had many more books published by now," he says.
From Where I Stand - KTAV Publishing House.