[The latest Kosher Cooking Carnival is here!]
I know I will miss many, many aspects of the shul rabbinate.
I’m having a hard time mentally separating from some of the responsibilities of my Rabbi life; I love what I do.
More, saying ‘Goodbye’ to so many good friends is hard. (Yes, we’ll keep in touch, but Facebook etc are not the same.)
Also, to be frank, much of my sense of self-worth is tied into the things I do, particularly the pastoral role. I expect I will continue to be involved in chesed, but it will not be with the intensity of a shul rabbi. So leaving the shul rabbinate is difficult.
Still, there are many roles, great and small, that I will not miss.
The ‘great’ items include Yamim Noraim, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. I have never had the experience of davening in a shul like any other mispallel (congregant) on those days – I went straight from yeshiva into the rabbinate. I wonder what it’s like to simply come to shul to daven, without worrying about leining, shofar, speaking and inspiring people, the pesichos, the gabboim, the air conditioning and the lights timers, etc.
Another of the ‘great’ items is the psak (legal authority) involved in running a community. Knowing that everyone’s kitchens, everyone’s Shabbat-carrying, everyone’s taharat hamishpachah (family purity) depends on my attention to halachic detail weighs heavily on my shoulders.
A third ‘great’ item is the derashah responsibility. I love feeling that I’ve completed a solid dvar torah that has a good message, that is well-written, that has a good chance of inspiring people - but I have a hard time with the pressure of doing that week-in, week-out. Thursday afternoons are very tough.
On the other hand, those great responsibilities come with great satisfaction and fulfillment, and I know I’ve grown from them.
But then there are the smaller matters, day-to-day things which I will be glad to leave to someone else’s neuroses. Examples:
• Making sure the lighting timers and A/C are set for Shabbat and Yom Tov
• Sending the landscapers a schedule of which days they shouldn’t come – and making sure they stick to it
• Notifying custodians of dead light bulbs, or changing them myself; ditto for clocks with dead batteries
• Bug-checking the kiddush parsley and strawberries
• Unlocking the Aron Kodesh for Shabbat, and rolling the Sifrei Torah to the right place
• Ensuring there’s a minyan twice each day
• Fielding complaints about seating for Yamim Noraim
• Making sure the shul is locked/alarmed each night
• Correcting chazanim and baalei keriah
• Making sure the custodian orders Shabbat toilet paper
• Setting up zmanim (times) for davening, etc.
• Dealing with supermarket bakery personnel who once violated the kashrut supervision rules and now won’t look me in the eye
And so on.
Not all shul rabbis need to do all of these things – shuls often assign house committees and gabbaim to manage some of these items – but all shul rabbis have some version of this list. (Go ahead, give your rabbi a hug and tell him you know what he handles every day.)
So the next time I question my decision, I’ll just look back at that list. I’ll miss a lot of the responsibilities, I’ll miss the people, but I won’t miss the parsley.