6/18/2009

A Very Bitter Rabbi

I originally called this blog "Self-hating Rabbi". I was bitter. I still have some of those sentiments, but, since I'm not a practicing rabbi anymore, I tend not to get all worked up about things anymore. Sometimes I miss it, but usually not. For example, the whole conversion thing is rearing its ugly head again; apparently, R. Metzger backed R. Sherman at a recent EJF convention - and I don't really give a darn (to be sure, if my son came home with a girl who is a ba'alat teshuvah, whose non-religious mother had converted through R. Druckman, I would insist that she do a tevilah le-chumrah before marrying my kid). I took it much more seriously when I was performing conversions and experienced personal outrage when conversions were being threatened. No more.

Anyhow, I'm currently learning a book called Yamin u-Smol by R. Yehuda Leib Graubart. This is the second work of his that I'm learning with someone who is interested in learning the works of this Rav specifically. The rav had a wonderful sense of humor, but was clearly a very bitter person. The current book is a series of essays on his hashkafa, but with a very then-contemporary bent - he talks about the balance between kodesh and chol, personal hygiene, business vs. agriculture (this was a huge issue then), communism, socialism (he believes that the Torah is fundamentally socialist; funny enough, Rav Lichtenstein has expressed similar ideas), Reform (boy, does he go after them) and a host of other issues. It's a lot of fun.

He has a few essays on the role and status of the rabbi, especially in America. He even discusses the relative merits of American rabbinical schools like RIETS and HTC (Skokie, before it was in Skokie). He laments the futility of being a rabbi in America often, but here's a real money quote:

My translation:
Who shall ascend the mountain of the Rabbinate? One who does not have clean hands and a putre heart (cf. Tehillim 24:4) - he will withstand and endure, be sated with bread, and it will be good with him - even though those charlatans did not choose the rabbinate out of wisdom, because had they employed their trickery and strategies in business, they probably would have become wealthy. The situation in the rabbinate is that with all their cunning, they will not amass much of a fortune. The rabbinate is not fertile ground for wealth.

Honest man - do not come here! Do not put your energies into the rabbinate. Run from it. Be a craftsman or peddler, and eat your bread, the fruit of your efforts, in peace, be it a lot or a little. Do not be take on the concerns of the many. Do not be a bundle of nerves. Be absorbed amongst the people - see, but do not be seen. You will fear God, and you will not hate people.
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