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Interview'd, fifth and last

The final question Matt Hulan asked in his interview was this:

You analyze faith, and more specifically the literature of the faith of your fathers, more than most people I know. Have you any ambition to become a rabbi? Have you ever had such an ambition?

Short answer: No. Long answer: Noooooooooooooooooo!

OK, proper answer: I like to spend time reading and discussing Scripture. If being a rabbi meant that people would pay me to sit around and read and discuss Scripture, I would be tempted. There are other parts of the job I would be willing to take on as well; I would happily write and deliver sermons (although not ones that would suit the congregation at any shul big enough to pay a rabbi), and would be willing to lead services, both by overseeing the contributions of congregants and by standing up on the bimah myself. The amount of fund-raising a rabbi has to do would be unpleasant for me, but I suspect it’s unpleasant for nearly all rabbis. Still, it’s starting to look less appealing as a job. Then there’s the administration of the congregation, the synagogue, the school. Sitting on committees. Finding volunteers. And then there are the pastoral duties: visiting the sick, comforting the perplexed, advising the cranky. No, not a job I would enjoy. And the hours suck, too.

There’s another thing, which is probably the most interesting, at least from the point of view of anyone who isn’t fascinated by my own taste in working conditions. I’m not a very observant Jew. I like to attend services. I love to study Scripture. I want to keep learning about how different Jews adopt and adapt different practices. But I don’t keep the commandments. Many of them I don’t keep because I don’t believe that keeping them is important to my relationships with the Divine and with my fellow Jews. I eat pork. I eat shellfish. I mix milk and meat. I mix wool and cotton. I am married to an Episcopalian, and I think that’s a Good Thing. I regularly violate certain sexual prohibitions, and I think that’s a Good Thing, too. Most Jews in America also violate dietary and sexual prohibitions, and many of them also believe that those dietary and sexual prohibitions are better broken, but—they want their rabbis to appear to follow them, and to publicly endorse them. Furthermore, there are a lot of such restrictions that I’m a bit ambivalent about, and people don’t want ambivalent rabbis. There are a lot of things that I would vaguely like to do (pray daily with t’fillin, for instance), that frankly, I can’t be arsed to, and people don’t want rabbis who are too lazy to pray. Which is quite right; I myself don’t want a rabbi as lazy as I am. Particularly not if it’s me.

So, no. I’ve never given any serious thought to becoming a rabbi. If I had more of a facility with languages, I’d consider learning Hebrew and then perhaps taking some classes, either at a Rabbinical school or (more likely) at a local university. I wouldn’t consider it very seriously, though; I’m a terrible student, and my desire to avoid taking classes is great. If I do go back to taking classes, it will be for something that will get me a job I want to have and keep and actually perform, not something that would utterly fail to get me a job which, if I were to somehow get it, would make me and my employers miserable.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Best. Long answer. Evar.


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