Friday, March 17, 2006

Realization of Priorities

Amechad (I love that Handle) asked me a poignant question in the very first comment to this second foray into the blog world. Namely, how I would be able to make a living as a Rabbi in Israel. He’s absolutely right from a practical sense. It will take a long time, and it will not be easy.

For the first 20 years of my life (I guess it’s less then that because until your 7 or so, what do you really know anyway about your future...) I also worried a lot about Parnasa, being able to make a living. This is why it should be no surprise to anyone that I’m a political science major and legal studies minor. Like a typical good non-observant Jew, as a child I knew I was going to be a lawyer all the way (after all, the site of other people under the needle or bleeding is something I just can’t deal with, so doctor was out), and why not, the pay was good, and I was good at it. (I was captain of my mock trial team since middle school, and led my team to victory more times then not.)

During high school when I began my T’Shuva process, slowly taking on more and more mitzvot into my personal realm of observance, I still kept that mission of being an attorney at the forefront. My family had been poor, and largely uneducated, and I was going to change that, and after living through my parent’s messy divorce I had had plenty of opportunity to be exposed to many bad attorneys. It was now my mission to not just be an attorney, but a good one, a responsible one who actually cared for his clients and for justice.

College started not much differently. However, I started working as an NCSY (Jewish Youth Group) advisor (I’d actually started the year before, but…), and began working for a special needs integration camp during the summers (also started the year before). I’d always loved working with kids. I’d coached Pee-Wee wrestling in High School, and done the CIT (Counselor in Training) thing at the local JCC. But, until now, I had never done it formally, or in a Torah observant setting. I soon realized that it was one of my true loves. I also started to realize just how much the Jewish Education system, in America at least, is seriously messed up. There is a complete lack of transmission; rather there is a large amount of disaffection that comes out of the horrible Sunday school, Hebrew School, and Day school environments. Even the “religious” schools failed to really pass on any real sense of Jewish love or passion onto the next generation. I don’t even need to get into the so called ills that plagued the “Orthodox” schools. My involvement with NCSY at during the summers was my chance to try to share my newfound love for the Jewish people and the Jewish Faith and Torah with the next generation. But don’t get me wrong, I was still set to be an attorney.

In my sophomore year of college I started to become increasingly disillusioned with myself and the path I was on. I decided that I needed to finally spend a year in Israel learning in a Yeshiva. (Previous to this I’d only had spotted years of Jewish education in K-3 and 8th grade). I needed to re-ground myself. I ended up in Yeshivat Bat Ayin, a phenomenal place. The learning was great, the focus on personal development and Avodat Hashem (serving G-d), but the physical conditions of the Yeshiva were not what I was used to. The Yeshiva was a grouping of caravans on the side of a mountain. The caravans were old with all kinds of life to them… My room was the size of my current closet. The food was good, but simple. Vegetarian during the week, and Meat only on Shabbat. (Rav Kook Style) In the end it was a productive soul searching year that forced me to really re-evaluate what was important to me. At the end of the year I’d wanted to stay, but because of army complications I was forced to return to America.

Back at college my disaffection continued to grow with American and with the prospect of being an attorney. It also continued to grow towards the system of Jewish Education. I’d now been working for NCSY and for that summer camp for an extended period of time and had the wonderful blessing of being able to see the many kids that I’d been working with for years grow and develop into young men and women. The mark that I’d made on there lives also was becoming clearer and more evident. It’s the most satisfying feeling I’ve ever experienced. I’d found my path. A little late considering I’d already completed my major and minor, but that wasn’t going to hold me back. Rabbinic school though was still another year or two out. At this point I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just knew three things. First, whatever happened, I wanted to end up back in Israel, which in my heart of hearts is always going to be my home no matter what. Second, I wanted to be involved with molding and shaping the Jewish future. I wanted to work with Kids. In what capacity I still hadn’t managed to figure out. Finally, I knew now that money was no longer even remotely a priority. I’d lived on next to nothing my entire time in Israel, and yet I’d never been happier because I was enjoying what I was doing. I was enjoying life and its simple pleasures. With this last barrier gone, the attorney thing was no more. (Of course I still realize the need for Parnasa, especially as someone who wants to provide for a family and wishes to provide an easier life for his kids then how he grew up.)

It’s only in this past year that Smicha became a real viable option for me. I realized, that while I never want to do pulpit Rabinics which is what I’d always associated smicha with, I would need it if I were ever going to qualify myself to transmit the traditions and beauty of Torah Judaism to the next generation. So… To answer Amechad’s question, I plan on making a living out of sheer determination and passion for what I love. I want to love what I do, I want to have that feeling, knowing I’m making a difference, even if that means sacrificing a little of the extra material wants. (But none of the needs, and even some wants are still important…) So, I can’t necessarily answer your question of how, I can only say that my priorities are different. I want to be a Jewish Educator, and I want to live in Israel. Now I just need to do whatever steps it takes to make that a reality. It’s not for everyone, but I’m pretty sure now that it’s for me.

Anyway, I don’t know if that helps at all. But, Shabbat is coming, and I’ve got a lot to do still to prepare for my Shabbos Bride and Queen. (Not to mention all the NCSY’ers that I’m spending it with.) I wish everyone a good Shabbos, a Shabbat Shalom. And pray that it brings comfort and rest to us all.

1 comment:

amechad said...

Good luck