Ask The Rabbi

Ask The Rabbi


How do we adapt the shiur to our audience?

The Rav Name:

When you are about to deliver a shiur, you must, first of all, take note of the audience you are facing – the audience you’ll be speaking to. It obviously makes a difference whether your audience is composed of chabadniks, of a mixed crowd of haredim, of Hassidim, of misnagdim, of the national religious, or of people who, as of yet, do not completely keep the mitzvos.

Since the worldview held by your audience may differ from your own, and since their opinions may differ from yours – and sometimes, this difference may be diametrical – you need to take care to mindful of not just their personal dignity, as we mentioned earlier, but also of issues tied to worldviews and ways of life.

You’ll be able to create a connection with your new audience by emphasizing the things you have in common, not by dwelling on what sets you apart.

Even when the subject of the shiur is totally unrelated to the gap between your worldview and theirs, it is clear that if you want to create a connection, the best move, at least at the outset of this relationship and attempt to make an acquaintance, would be to express and highlight the ideas you and the participants have in common, even if you do so in a roundabout way. This is how you can strengthen their sense of internal connection.

For instance, if your audience does not observe Torah and mitzvos as of yet, it would be best to state and emphasize that the external garments a person wears aren’t paramount. Explain that an internal divine spark exists in every Jew, one that isn’t dependent or contingent on that Jew’s actions or physical appearance. That is how we can make participants feel a sense of connection and belonging to the lesson of the shiur, despite the differences in physical appearance.

If, however, the shiur is to be delivered to a haredi audience, or one that is more zealously Torah observant, or something of the like, that connection could be created by emphasizing other issues, based on the type of people in your audience and the worldviews they hold.

We will expand further on this topic when we conduct a more extensive discussion on the way the “spark” can be found in each method or technique. However, the guiding principle is that to create a connection, especially at the outset, when the audience is naturally reluctant, we must emphasize what we have in common, and take care not to deride or belittle things people consider important or tied to their values.