Thursday, May 14, 2009

Once upon a rabbi (Part 1?)

Occasionally, when I have the chance to read my children a bedtime story, I instead tell them a story from my own rabbinate. I remove all identifying details, of course, and try to remove the nightmare-inducing aspects of rabbinic life, but what remains is often a simple tale with a good moral, about right for the ages of some of my children.

Here’s an example of a story told to my kindergartener; if it goes over well, I’ll turn it into an occasional feature on the blog:

Once upon a time there was a rabbi. This rabbi loved to teach Torah; he spent a lot of time learning and preparing, and then he taught the people who came to learn Torah. Sometimes they learned Chumash, sometimes they learned about Shabbat or Yom Tov, sometimes they learned about Jewish beliefs, and sometimes they learned Gemara or Jewish law or Jewish history or Hebrew. Some people who came to learn knew a lot, and others knew a little, but they all came together to learn. The students all had a good time together, too.

But the rabbi had a problem: He spent so much time talking and talking in these classes, and he had such a good time, that sometimes he got carried away and wasn’t careful with the things he said. Sometimes he meant to say one thing, but something else came out, and he was misunderstood. And sometimes he even slipped and said things that upset one of the students.

One day, the rabbi was teaching a class about sharing, and not being greedy. Before starting the class, he mentioned that it was too bad Shlomit, a certain student who came to a lot of classes, wasn’t there. Then he started to teach about being greedy.

After the class was over, someone told the rabbi that it sounded like he was saying Shlomit was greedy. The rabbi was very upset; he had not meant that at all! What if people would think that Shlomit was greedy? Or what if people would think he was nasty for having said that?

So the rabbi immediately wrote down a list of all of the people who had been in class. He emailed all of them, and then called all of them as well, to make sure they would understand that this was not what he had meant. And he called Shlomit, too, to apologize.

Everyone said that they knew what he had really meant, and Shlomit forgave him, and they lived happily ever after.


  1. A happy ending for a day in the Rabbinate - Wow! that is a fairy tale.

  2. Great tie in to Pirkei Avot. Perfect for this time of year.

  3. Anonymous-
    Not always... just most of the time...

    SephardiLady, Neil-

  4. khaibar ya

  5. Your responsible actions taught your students at least as much as anything you said that day.