In June, I’ll be a rabbi. And I’m terrified about it.
My professional mentors have done everything they can to make me feel better. But alas, on Sunday evening at 11:30PM, my eyes are as wide as half dollars as I stare at the computer screen kvetching about the inevitable.
When the panic sets in, I start to go into flash card overdrive. I conjugate Hebrew verbs in different forms and tenses. I start to quiz myself on the Bible, the characters and their entire life stories. I try to remember every battle won and lost, and by whom and at what time period. Then I start to nervously surf Biblical criticism websites, keeping myself up-to-date on the latest archeological findings in Israel, and trying my damnedest to repeat trope.
And then I think about my “shortcomings”. I did not have to learn Modern Hebrew. I had very limited Rabbinic Hebrew, and my Biblical Hebrew was just enough to make me worthy of tutoring bar mitzvah kids. I’m not an expert on certain areas of halacha. Crap! What do you do if your ox gores someone in the town square, again? Why don’t I know off the top of my head if that’s in tractate Shabbos or Rosh Hashanah?
Trying to overcome my fears through distraction, I check my email. And something magical happens. I get a message like this:
“Dear Patrick, thank you for taking the time to read and reply to my long email. It’s nice to know people care about me. And thank Jeremiah for chatting with me on the website. And also, please tell Ketzirah that I really enjoyed her Shabbat service last week. Looking forward to seeing Brian at the next Torah study on Monday!”
And then it hits me. My rabbinate is not about me. It’s not what I know, or don’t know, or whether I went to RSI or JTS or RRC or who-gives-a-damn where.
My rabbinate is about you.
It’s about all the time and energy you put into this community. All the hours you spend writing articles, doing design work, helping me “off the edge of a cliff” when some techie issue comes up. It’s about the YouTube videos, the live streaming events, the many times I have laughed and been spiritually fulfilled by some comment in a chat room. It’s about the number of emails that we receive from people all over the world who are grateful for what you and I spend our time doing.
I’m not becoming a rabbi so that I can have a rabbinate. I am becoming a rabbi because it is another way that I can give back to this community that I am lucky to be a part of. If I had become an auto mechanic, I’d be changing your tires so we could hit the road and crash Jewish conventions with our message. If I had become a chef, I’d be making you dinner while you hack out the next cool Jewish eBook.
But I became a rabbi. So I suppose I’ll be doing rabbi things for you.