Recently, I worked with a rabbi to help him prepare a pre-Passover sermon. He worked hard to prepare and practice a meaningful and powerful message. The rabbi tended to need to write everything down beforehand and was working on developing a more conversational, spontaneous style.
Little did we know how far he would take that.
The morning of the sermon, he says in his own words, "I looked out and saw - the audience for the drash (teaching) we worked on was just not there. In its place were two families in shiva, two or three people out of work, a few dealing with illnesses. Hurting people."
So this rabbi did something quite courageous. He adapted the speech at the last minute to make it a sermon about hope.
He told himself, "If I really am committed to what I have to say, and to my relationship to the audience, I will be able to speak without the notes."
Which he did.
Afterwards, one person said, "Great drash." Another said, "I don't know if you worked on this a lot or just winged it, but it meant a lot to me."
Indeed. This rabbi went beyond simply giving a great sermon. He connected directly to the individuals he was speaking with.
From the Green Room: Prepare. Then, when necessary, trust yourself to be able adapt your speech to the audience when necessary. The connection you make with the people in the audience will be worth it.