December 15, 2004

You Should be A Rabbi

This is one of those posts where I am not really sure where I should start, there is no obvious beginning. And I think that the reason there is no obvious beginning is because it is a personal matter that I have considered for many many years, for so long now it is not real clear where it begins anymore.

It is little bit like catching a train midway along the route. You assume that there are at least a couple of people who know where the journey began and about where it should end. The big distinction here is that although we know that one day I will die, we do not know all the different places/stops my journey will take me upon.

What really grabs me about writing a post like this is that it feels like what I imagine childbirth to be. It is a long, arduous process with a lot of grunting, sweating and muttered curses, only I have no one to blame for impregnating me except for myself. Somewhere there are people who are thinking "I never realized that when I told him to go screw himself he would take me seriously." ;)

If I followed the directions that my English and journalism professors provided I wouldn't have so much difficulty because there would be an outline for me to follow and I would merely need to fill in the blanks. That is not an option because I hate making outlines, too detailed and too anal for this boy. I like to compose on the fly and what shows up here is what shows up here.

I have years of involvement with the Jewish community, primarily conservative, but there is a fair amount of activity with what could be termed as Modern Orthodox and even some that would be categorized as being further to the right of that. I'll let the Chassidim and Mitnagdim friends battle each other about this later.

Judaism is just incredibly interesting to me, there is so much there to discuss. I am appreciative of the efforts that have been made to cover virtually every aspect of life and how it should be lived from a Judaic standpoint. I may not follow most of the rules, but I can carry on an intelligent conversation about a large chunk and can at least make informed decisions about why I choose to do or not to do something.

My own interest in learning and the Judaic emphasis mesh well together, so I think that probably has something to do with it.

By now you are probably wondering what the title of this post has to do with this since I haven't mentioned anything about being a rabbi yet. In college I became very close with some guys who are Jewish by birth but by practice they are nothing. One Pesach we ate lunch together, or should I say I had my Kosher-for-Passover lunch while they laughed and ate their pizza and beer when one of them asked me if I was going to become a rabbi.

I asked him what prompted the question and he said that it was clear that I took Judaism very seriously and that since I liked to tell long drawn out stories I would be perfect for the role. It surprised me, I hadn't really considered it is as any sort of future vocation.

As I have mentioned in the past, I find davening to be difficult, it is not something I can do easily and I wasn't real certain that I would want to try and lead others if I had problems doing so myself and so I kind of shelved the idea.

Several years later a couple of other friends floated the idea and said that they thought I should really consider it. I mulled it over, discussed it with a few friends that had already received smicha and even made a few more calls about it. And again I shelved it, placed it in the back of the freezer to be reviewed on another day.

And then just a couple years later one of my colleagues at work suggested that this might be a good profession for me. So I thought, am I receiving a message from on high. Is someone trying to tell me something. I thought about it again and again and still didn't think that it made sense for me, but this time I opened my mind to the possibility.

Not that it wasn't open before, but the last few times I had always thought of it as being a step stool into leading a congregation, taking a pulpit and that is not real interesting to me. I don't like the politics. I don't want congregants making funny assumptions about who I am and how I should live and there is no way that this will not happen.

I am the guy who would tell the president of the shul where to go and how to do it, politics is not going to be my strong suit. So that is not really the direction to head in, but then it occurred to me that I had been too narrow in my concept of how this should be or could be and I reconsidered.

It would be a good opportunity to work as an educator and that is something that still interests me. I always enjoyed teaching and always wanted an excuse to just spend time learning about some areas of interest and this could provide a means and a method to hitting that mark.

Now I don't know if I will ever go through with it, but don't be surprised if one day you find yourself at Rabbi Jack's Traveling Blog of Blues, Bizness and Barbecues, Kosher of course.

It may not ever happen, but then again it may. Part of the joy of life are experiences you gain on the journey.

10 comments:

vince millay said...

This makes a lot of sense, Jack. I think you would be an excellent Rabbi. As long as you would still continue to counsel heathens such as myself via blogging, of course.

Anshel's Wife said...

When I was 18, I also went through a stage of wanting to be a rabbi. I realize now that it wasn't so much the pulpit I wanted as the learning. And that's the beauty of Judaism. The constant learning. The more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. I know many men who can be called rabbis (like people who are called doctors, but aren't MD's, kind of), but make their livings doing other things besides teaching or mashgiach work or having a pulpit.

I admire your love of yiddishkeit. You have said over and over again how much being Jewish means to you. I encourage you to keep moving forward. I believe you when you say you probably know more than many BT's. I'm sure you know much more than I do. I've only started to learn.

We should start calling you Reb Yankel.

Mr. Middle America said...

Why don't you just ... you know... write a book...

Jack's Shack said...

Vince,

I specialize in heathens. ;)

Alice said...

Very interesting. Here's a question for you: Would the responsibility of having to lead by example make you resent following all of the commandments? Or would helping others find the strength to do so inspire you to climb to greater heights? (Understanding that it's not all one or the other.)

Jack's Shack said...

Alice,

That is a good question and it is one of the reasons I am less likely to become a pulpit rabbi if I choose to enter the rabbinate.

At the moment I am not real sure that I want to lead by example. Well, I don't want to be measured differently in my observance just because of a title.

The commandments in my eyes are to be shared equally, not borne more stringently by one because he happens to have smicha.

There are some additional details that could be discussed, but this is fine for now.

PsychoToddler said...

It's interesting that your perceived level of religiousness often depends on whom you're standing next to. You don't consider yourself particularly religious, but your friends in college thought you were fanatical.
At work, they think I'm ultra-orthodox because I only eat Kosher and wear a kipah.
At my shul, they think I'm an apikores (heretic).
Depends on who's next to me.

Ralphie said...

I'm in the same boat at PT. Always have been, really.

Jack - there's always the possibility of being a Hillel rabbi (no, I don't mean as opposed to a Shammai rabbi) or perhaps a teacher of some sort. Both would have a bit of politics but nothing like a shul, I'd imagine. (I hesitate to even join a committee, much less campaign for a spot on the board, of my shul.)

Jack's Shack said...

Ralphie,

Teaching is probably the best bet for me if I go that direction.

Rabbi Sedley said...

I can say 'been there - done that', except that I never wanted to be a Rabbi. I fell into it by accident.
Now that I am not working as a Shul Rabbi but can just do my thing between me and G-d, and me and people, I am very happy.
The Talmud (Bva Metzia 85a) tells that Rabbi Zera fasted for 100 days to pray that he should not become the 'gadol hador'. I would pray that I don't have to become a Shul Rabbi again, because even though it was great, and I enjoyed it a lot, it kept me away from the things that I want to be doing - learning, teaching, praying, helping others.
You reach more people through your blog than in a Shul.
I'm sure you'd make a great Rabbi, but why would you want to?

Rabbi Sedley