New York rabbi delivers sermon written by artificial intelligence

Rabbi Josh Franklin used ChatGPT at Shabbat service in the Hamptons


A senior rabbi at a New York congregation has become the first Jewish leader to deliver a sermon written entirely by AI.

Josh Franklin, the rabbi at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons, began his AI-written sermon on the parashah Vayiggash by telling his congregants that he had plagiarised the message he was about to give.

When he completed his address, worshippers made various guesses as to who had written it, including other local rabbis, Franklin's father, and even the late Lord Rabbi Sacks.

When he revealed that it was in fact written by a robot, Franklin said to the congregation: "You're clapping, I'm deathly afraid.

"I thought truck drivers would go long before rabbis in terms of losing our positions to artificial intelligence."

Explaining that artificial intelligence had massively grown since the days of Siri "telling you how to find Starbucks", Rabbi Franklin said that even with the leaps in technology, rabbis shouldn't worry about their jobs just yet.

He said: "artificial intelligence wrote that. It constructed it. Look if I read that, I would know the various faux pas. There are distinctive markers that aren't how many rabbis would speak. But you were all pretty impressed, you thought Jonathan Sacks wrote it!

"ChatGPT might be really great at sounding intelligent, but the question is, can it be empathetic? And at least not yet, it can't."

Speaking to the JC, rabbi Franklin said that he was inspired by the fact that ChatGPT was everywhere, and thought it could be a good way to teach his congregation about the limits of robot rabbis.

He said: "AI doesn’t have nefesh, it doesn’t have a soul, it can mimic emotions, but not spirituality. So much of a sermon is delivery, is reading the room, it can't mimic that.

"Being a rabbi is not about what I have to say on any given subject, it's about addressing the community's spiritual needs, which AI can't do yet."

The homily, written by ChatGPT focused on the Torah portion Vayiggash. Vayiggash, in the Book of Genesis focuses on the journey of Jacob to Egypt with his sons, after a devastating famine in Canaan.

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