How Does Rabbinic School Change You?
So now that I’ve gotten into rabbinic school, now what? Besides trying to figure out how I’m going to afford to go, along with the expenses and overdue bills of the rest of my life, and, you know, how I’m going to survive learning and studying in biblical Hebrew, rabbinic Hebrew, and ancient Aramaic (not to mention American Sign Language, a specialty of my new school) for five years, something else won’t stop gnawing at me.
How does rabbinic school change you? Who will I be if I manage to make it through to smicha (ordination)? For that matter, who am I now, really? A lot of navel gazing, but here’s the thing. I keep wondering over and over, what do all the rabbis whom I know personally do when they’re angry? When they’re annoyed? When they’re sad? When they’re just human and feeling edgy-lifey?
For those of you who are reading, that magnanimous smile can’t always be there. Can it? Is that part of the way rabbinic school changed you? Or did you go in that way, too?
What about the moments when the very last of your nerves has frayed and far beyond, and then beyond that? Those moments when you just want to scream? Or not hold your tongue? Or walk behind closed doors and through something that isn’t a pillow at something not amenable to its continued existence in one piece?
Because I have those moments. Those very human, very imperfect, very I-just-want-my-mom moments. I know my Jewish life is a journey to learn to transcend them. To find the humor, and pathos, and compassion towards myself and everyone else on the planet that hides behind the ups and, especially, downs of daily existence. But still, I have them. And they suck. And they make me wonder how fit I am really for rabbinic school.
I’d love to know, how much a rabbi is the person she or he was before beginning rabbinic school? How much a rabbi fundamentally changed in rabbinic school? And maybe more importantly, stayed the same?
I’ve encountered so many totally self-assured prospective rabbinic students. They’re all so much younger than I am. Is this one of the anxieties that comes from making such a big decision in the middle of your life? Would they wonder the same thing if they were old enough to have seen (and finally admitted) another couple of decades of their personal patterns?
At the moment, all I know is who I am and where I’m hopefully headed. In five years, for better or worse, que sera sera, I guess.
Whoever I’ll be, I’ll be.