Is Presentation Everything?

Dear Rabbi

I attend a Synagogue where the Rabbi, not originally English, struggles to express himself properly. We all understand what he’s saying but it is sometimes a little painful to listen to. He’s very sincere and many people like him, but I think presentation is half the job of every Rabbi. What do you think?


Dear Henny

Life is very much in the marketing. Take for example wine. The more unique and attractive a wine label is, the more likely the bottle will be purchased and tasted by consumers. It is widely believed that wine label art is reflective of the quality of the wine inside. The aesthetic appeal of a wine label initiates the first purchase, while the quality of the wine initiates a second purchase. As someone once eloquently noted: “Wine is fashion, and beverage isles are the runways. Wines, like fashion, have reached a point where marketing and merchandising play as important a role as making the product itself.”

In other words, wine labels are no longer used to simply relay information about variety or producer, but are now used as a marketing tactic to draw in potential buyers. The wine label is a billboard, which makes it all the more crucial within the highly competitive wine market that companies differentiate themselves among other brands by designing their label appropriately for their target market.


The same reality is true with speakers. There are very eloquent speakers who can wax lyric, be profoundly poetic – they’re such gifted orators that they can turn people’s emotions on and off like a tap. They have silver tongues and a strong command of the spoken language such that they can deliver their talk brilliantly. But sometimes one walks away from a really eloquent talk: “Wow that was amazing! You should have heard the Rabbi today!” “Really? What did he say? What was his message?” And that will be followed with silence. Stirring and expressive noise but no substance.


To be sure, presentation matters! We must always be aware of our target audience and the best possible way to draw them in. But key in all this remains eminently the message. And the message must be real and consistent. Otherwise, to be frank, whether you are “selling religion” or selling a product, you are little more than a snake-oil salesman.


Sometimes, the lack of silver tongue makes you appreciate that there is nothing glitzy and glamorous about the presentation. It is truth spoken from the heart which ultimately makes its necessary impact.


The ancient Sages put it succinctly when they said: “Don’t look at the barrel rather what is within. For you can have a new barrel but with old wine or an old barrel without even new wine within.” Image is powerful but image can also be superficial. It is what is within that matters most.


We live in a superficial world where social media is triumphant, a public image is held with the highest of importance and competing against each other is the social norm. Know how to look past the superficial exterior and be clear-headed to recognise authenticity. Even when sometimes that truth may not be as flashy or as popular as one might prefer.

Jewish Unity – Who Are We Kidding?


Dear Rabbi

Why do Jewish people talk so much about unity when there is so much disparity?



Dear Melisa

An Irishman walks into a bar in Dublin, orders three pints of Guinness and sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. The bartender says, “You know, a pint goes flat after I draw it; it would taste better if you bought one at a time.” The Irishman replies, “Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in America, the other in Australia, and I’m here in Dublin. When we all left home, we promised that we’d each drink this way in our local pubs to remember the good ol’ days when we used to drink together.” The bartender smiles at the thought of this warm custom and the Irishman becomes a regular in the bar, always drinking the same way: He orders three pints and drinks them in turn. One day, he comes in and orders only two pints. All the other regulars notice and fall silent. Before leaving, the bartender says, “Look, I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I would like to offer my condolences on your sad loss.” The Irishman is confused for a moment then a light flickers in his eyes and he laughs. “Oh, no,” he says, “Everyone’s fine. Those two pints were for my brothers. Me, I’ve quit drinking.”

Whenever there is terrible conflict in Israel, Jewish people band together is a most compelling demonstration of unity proving how we are essentially connected at the core. It’s not like we are Americans who are also Jewish, and Canadians who are also Jewish and British who are also Jewish. We are, first and foremost Jewish, and then, based on our geographical locations – we are either British Jews or American Jews or Canadian Jews etc. The relevance of this is that when something happens in any one place we feel it someplace else. Like a family member – however far away – if something happens to my brother or sister – on the other side of the world, it doesn’t lessen the impact. I don’t believe there are a people so universally bound as the Jewish people. We could be sitting in a bar drinking alone, but my brother in Australia and the other in Israel – it is as though they are drinking with me. We are all interconnected. Each time a rocket is fired we feel the pain wherever we were. Each time a terrorist strikes, we shed a tear around the world. Are there a people like that anywhere in the world?