Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Top Ten Signs of Rabbinic Burnout

It’s that time of year again – Elul is coming, and with it comes the spectre of Rabbinic Burnout as the rabbi realizes he really ought to have taken vacation time during the summer, before the deluge began.

Now it's too late:
*People coming home from their trips need to meet with you about various issues.
*It's time to prepare for Shabbos-Rosh HaShanah-Shabbos Shuvah-Yom Kippur-Shabbos-Succos-Shabbos Chol haMoed-Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Shabbos.
*Boards and committees are starting up their meetings and their work.
*Your children are going back to school and will need homework help and carpool.

I just heard about a rabbi who abruptly resigned at the start of the month of Elul. I must admit that this has appeal. If there’s ever a right time to abruptly resign, it’s this week.

But, since most rabbis won’t resign this week and will begin feeling the tension of Elul/Tishrei, here are ten signs your rabbi is in the incipient (or, perhaps, not-so-incipient) stages of burning out:

10. Hands tremble when people mention Rosh HaShanah, or October, even in casual conversation. Or when he sees a shofar, or even a lemon. Or when he sees a child throwing bread to fish in a stream.

9. Found loitering outside a travel agency, staring wistfully at the posters. Alternatively, gets a dark look and begins to growl when you start describing your vacation. Says loudly, "I'm glad someone got to go away!" - and he's not smiling.

8. Visits congregant in hospital, and advises, “Well, we all gotta go sometime; toughen up!”

7. Begins delivering daily post-davening dvar torah from Gesher haChaim or other books on death and mourning.

6. Loses train of thought during speech and says, “Oh, heck with it, let’s just go on with the davening.”

5. Drains entire kiddush cup of wine, then declares he mispronounced a word and needs to say it again. And again.

4. Chases away people who come to join the shul as new members, shouting, “Beware! Beware!”

3. Leans for tachanun at Shacharit, doesn’t come back up until Minchah.

2. Denies child a lollipop after Adon Olam because the child “didn’t sing all of the words clearly.”

1. Includes self among the names in the Mi sheBeirach (prayer for the sick). Or in a Kel Malei Rachamim (memorial prayer).

And one more: The rabbi is more up on what's going on in the Jewish blogosphere than you are...

As far as advice for burning-out rabbis, my best advice comes from Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski: Always make sure you have another means of parnassah, so that you are not trapped in the rabbinate.

That, and this: Always keep your sense of humor. If you don’t have one, get one.



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8 comments:

  1. That made me chuckle and I am not even a rabbi. ;)

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  2. Oh, dear. I hope you aren't feeling this way.

    Our rabbi always (almost always) goes to Israel for a month in the summer. Then he comes back on a high. Hopefully, the high will ride him through any high holiday hard work.

    I think it was Rav Schacter who said on Tisha B'Av that he never felt like he could really daven while a pulpit rabbi, too much to worry about.

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  3. "It's time to prepare for Shabbos-Rosh HaShanah-Shabbos Shuvah-Yom Kippur-Shabbos-Succos-Shabbos Chol haMoed-Shemini Atzeres-Simchas Torah-Shabbos."

    i hope you're not planning on delivering sermons on ALL of these days.

    "Denies child a lollipop after Adon Olam because the child “didn’t sing all of the words clearly.”"

    i know you are kidding here, but it really wouldn't kill us if our kids actually learned how to daven without butchering the ivra.

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  4. Jack-
    You sure you're not? Sometimes I wonder.

    Leora-
    Not especially burned out, no. It'll come, but not yet.

    Lion-
    Re: speeches - Yes, I expect to speak all of those days, except Simchas Torah. And to give shiurim as well. I can't refuse people Torah when they ask to learn it.
    Re: kids and Ivra - Agreed.

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  5. "We all gotta go sometime"

    LOL!

    ReplyDelete