Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What does your rabbi do all day?

[Post of interest: Liveblogging the Chidon haTanakh at the Muqata]

You know the classic joke about the kid who asks the rabbi what he does all week, right?

Starting in 2002, I began keeping a low-tech, text file “to do” list of items on my schedule for each day. I would print out a hard copy, and I would keep it as a record of what had happened that day. Of course, it didn't include last-minute changes - someone dies, someone goes into the hospital, and so on - but it was close enough for my purposes. Part of the motivation was my pack-rat mentality of storing data, and part was to have a written record for consultation.

Yesterday, to remind myself of what the shul rabbinate was like, I looked back and found the following on December 7 of various years. I include them here, for your amusement and because I haven't had time to write a new blog post in the last few days:

Tuesday December 7, 2004
7:45 AM Daf Yomi
8:45 AM Send out daily Torah Thought and daily Jewish Law emails
3:45 PM ______ (bar mitzvah boy)
7 PM Yachad U Year Two class at ______’s house, Week 9
8:30 PM Gemara Beitzah class at ______’s house
Talk to Chulent Contest contestants about guidelines
Look up the issue of the corners of ______________’s tallis
Purchase power bar to plug in chulent contest crockpots
Jobs from yesterday’s day school Education Committee meeting
Unwrap shul’s new crockpots
Get back to ______ from her call
Call ______ to talk about her daughter remaining at the day school
Deadline to send in shul events to HaKol (local Federation newspaper)
Prepare Thursday’s Yachad U class
Prepare “teshuvos” dvar torah for Friday night
Kasher shul ovens for meat
Prepare Parshah Aggadah/Halachah class for Shabbos – Dreams; Taanis Chalom
Do text for __________ headstone
Write Derashah for Shabbos
Prepare Beitzah shiur for tonight
Finalize class for Yachad U tonight

Wednesday December 7, 2005
7:45 AM Daf Yomi
9 AM Send out daily Torah Thought and daily Jewish Law emails
12 PM ______ at shul; Kuzari, and talk about setting up HFL board meeting
2 PM Meet _____________ to talk about day school website
7 PM Pastoral Relations Committee meeting
Send out weekly Jewish Events email, and send it to the Allentown Times (עליו השלום) as well
Deadline for announcements for HaKol (local Federation newspaper)
Talk to ____ about possibly cancelling Friday night's program because of snow predictions
Prepare materials for PRC meeting
Article for shul Chanukah Hamodia bulletin
Check in with ______ (supermarket vp) about progress in bringing bakery up to LVKC standards
Prepare Shabbos noon class - Add Rashi's connection to Chachmei Ashkenaz predecessors
Brainstorm ways to become more involved with high school kids
Look into use of Multiple Intelligences approach in teaching children chumash

Thursday December 7, 2006
7:45 AM Daf Yomi
9 AM Send out daily Torah Thought and daily Jewish Law emails
9:30 AM Learn with ____________
Put two pizzas in shul refrigerator for parent/child program
10 AM Prepare materials for 3 PM class at Country Meadows – Tehillim
10:45 AM Teach Yachad Grad class
12 PM Kitchen duty for kiddush preparation
3 PM Tehillim at Country Meadows
5 PM Parent/Child learning program with pizza
7 PM _________ (bar mitzvah boy)
Call ______________ in hospital
Call _______________ to confirm that I will help (I think this was benevolent fund assistance)
Add new biweekly shul calendar to website
Purchase food for Sephardic Oneg and Seudah Shlishis for this Shabbos
Deadline for HaKol (local Federation newspaper) article
Check in with ______________ (he had not been around in a while)
Email kiddush committee regarding kiddush and seudah shlishis arrangements for 12/16
Find out when ______________ (local caterer) wants to cook in the shul kitchen for bat mitzvah
Send letter endorsing _________________ for Covenant Foundation honor

Friday December 7 2007
6:30 AM Put _________’s chulent in the fridge (this Shabbos was our annual Chulent Contest)
6:30 AM Send daily emails
7:45 AM Daf Yomi
8:45 AM Upload Daf audio
8:45 AM _________ comes in for chulent prep
9 AM Call ___________ to check in (this person’s father had passed away recently)
9 AM Call ____________ to check in (this person had agreed to give his wife a get, reluctantly)
11 AM _________ puts up her chulent
2 PM Put up _____________’s chulent
Email friends of the person above whose father had passed away, to ask them to check in with her
Fix Eruv pole – Liberty and Albright corner
Call ______ about his late monthly check for his ex-wife
Call _______ at the hospital
Call _______ at hospital and check in with her husband
Check in: ___________ (person undergoing chemo), _______________ (person living alone), _______________ (person whose husband had passed away a few months before, ________________ (another person living alone)
Prepare chulent contest baskets and ballots
Blog: Birkas haChamah
Provide HaKol with pictures from our Israel Fair
Eruv email and infoline notification
Revisit derashah – Make the hope point more complex, perhaps with an illustration from Tanach
Yahrtzeit reminder calls for 5 Tevet
Move Chanukah sefer torah into big shul, and menorah into big shul
Leave lights on in the shul’s downstairs rooms
Turn off the hot water for the kitchen sink (we only had one control for the hot and cold water, and people easily slipped into hot water by accident)
Set up new blogs to host daily emails

Ah, the memories this brings back…


  1. Sounds like you were a one man band! I would have thought that a number of those tasks would have been done by an administrative assistant or Shamash.

  2. Should be required reading for those in (or contemplating) rabbinical school. Some people think that getting a rabbi job means getting paid to learn Gemara 12 hours a day ... they're in for a rude awakening!

  3. Michael-
    My impression is that most shuls outside of major areas don't have a shamash. We had an office manager and custodian, and volunteers. I certainly could have asked volunteers to do some of these things, but I wanted to save delegating for the big jobs. I'm not sure this was a wise policy; perhaps getting people involved in small jobs would have helped lead them into the big jobs.

    Does anyone really think that these days?

  4. Sadly yes. I had a neighbor who was in a kollel studying for semicha, but his yeshiva really wasn't into training people for the rabbinate. Finally he attended some practical-rabbinics seminars and immediately realized that wasn't was he was looking for. Thank G-d for his sake, his family's sake, and his would-be community's sake that he figured that out now, and not on the job!