When a certain well-known rabbi heard I wanted to enter the rabbinate, he put his hands on my head, gave the top of my skull a long look, and said something along the lines of, “That’s strange; I don’t see anything wrong.”
Personally, I think he had the wrong party; I think he should have done that to my wife. To be a Rebbetzin you have to be, well, I don't know what . You must have a generosity gland that runs in twenty-four hour overdrive. You must have the patience of not just one saint, but several thousand of them. And you must lack any sense of self-preservation.
Think I’m exaggerating? Consider these points:
1. The rabbi will work 24/7 looking after the needs of people in the community, but will also receive Thank You and “Job well done” comments (yes, along with doses of righteous criticism…). The Rebbetzin will not have the rabbi’s help at home and will not have the rabbi’s companionship throughout that 24/7, and will receive far fewer Thank You and “Job well done” comments, if any.
2. People in the community will doubtless comment that they wish the Rebbetzin would teach more classes, attend more committee meetings, host more people and be involved in more projects. But because the Rebbetzin doesn’t function in an official capacity, she won’t have the opportunity to face those people and rebut them. The rabbi, at least, can attend a board meeting or speak from the pulpit; where is the Rebbetzin’s public forum?
3. The rabbi will certainly love his Rebbetzin, but he will equally certainly spend time talking to female committee members, counseling women, and so on. It’s all part of the job, the rabbi will say. And this will be the truth … but still…
4. The rabbi will wail and cry on his Rebbetzin's shoulder when things go wrong, when people get sick and die, when life in general becomes tough. The Rebbetzin, on the other hand, will generally not have the option of doing the same to him, because he will be out of the house taking care of other people who are wailing and crying on his shoulder.
I suppose it’s one thing for a woman to marry a man who then goes into the rabbinate, but I cannot fathom why a woman would actually marry a rabbi.
Of course, my rebbetzin did exactly that; go figure. I can’t understand women.
(originally written in honor of my wife and Rebbetzin's birthday several years ago...)