You Shall Pursue

May 7, 2012

Rabbis are People Too.

Filed under: Jewish Communitty, Rabbinical School — Tags: , , — marleyweiner @ 7:00 pm

Clicking around the internet as I begin my journey towards school, this post really resonated with me. The rabbi writing the piece, who is in charge of PunkTorah, lays out a contrast that lies at the heart of my future rabbinate; how do I, or any clergy person, serve God and the Jewish people while retaining my own humanity?

I sometimes like to joke that I plan to be “the worst rabbi ever.” I feel a certain pressure and expectation to live up to a certain view of the rabbinate that is staid, settled, with only a very narrow range of pre-approved interests or hobbies that will in no way interfere with people’s view of me as “the kind of Jew they don’t have time to be.” Here’s the thing though. I love Talmud, and Bible, and ritual, and prayer. I also love Dr. Who, My Little Pony, and bad action movies. I’m an incorrigible flirt. I’m a dancer, and sometimes I will pick staying up late on a Friday night to get in one more really good dance over getting up for Saturday morning minyan. I’m a 24-year-old woman AND a future leader of the Jewish people. This is all part and parcel of my rabbinate; I wouldn’t be as effective or passionate about Judaism if these things were not a part of my worldview.

Interestingly enough, the more committed to Judaism an individual is, the less they seem to care or be surprised about all of this. This is usually because they are also incorporating Judaism into their own joyful, irreverent lives. I have brilliant friends who write punk music about Kohelet, or R-rated tongue-in-cheek love poetry to the Shekhinah, or use the text of prophets to blast away anti-gay bigots on Reddit. Judaism is part of the fabric of their lives, and since they are witty, intelligent, creative, and often a bit radical, it only follows that they mold and shape Judaism to flow seamlessly with their other passions and interests.

It is the Jews who are less immersed in Judaism, at least in my experience, who have a more old-fashioned view of what a rabbi can and should be. While our tradition has much to say about our teachers participating fully in the joys and pleasures of the secular world (within reason), we live in a culture that has been deeply influenced by the Christian view that holiness and earthiness are diametrically opposed (for example, I cannot tell you how many non-Jews have asked me if I’ll be allowed to marry, usually while I’m out at a bar or dancing). The less a Jew is immersed in Judaism’s unique take on the holiness inherent in the world that is, the more likely they are to buy into the surrounding culture’s notion that a holy person must recuse him- or herself from that world.

As a people, I think that it is time for our leadership to reclaim and fight for the holiness of the everyday. The more that we share our stories of finding meaning, holiness, and blessing in a dance with an attractive partner, or in sitting drinking and talking with friends until 3 in the morning, or in finishing a marathon in record time, the more that those whom we serve will be able to realize that they have a path into a more interesting, soulful, and anarchic Judaism. It is no good to keep the Law and the ritual for the professionals and leave the others disconnected. We must bring the law to them where they are, by showing them how we keep it ourselves, even when we are out in the world.


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