Saturday, May 22, 2010

Not a Rabbi

By Susan Esther Barnes

On Friday before services a very nice man suggested I might want to consider becoming a rabbi. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but “I could see you as a rabbi” was in there somewhere.

I can’t say the thought has never crossed my mind. About 15 years ago I looked into it briefly, and even started to write an essay for my application to rabbinic school. When I told my rabbi at the time what I was thinking, he discouraged me, and, thinking back on it, he was probably right.

For one thing, at that time I was married to a man who was already concerned that I might become “too Jewish.” Also, there was a lot of personal growth I’ve gone through over the last ten years, without which I suspect I might have been a pretty bad rabbi.

So why not become a rabbi now? First, there are the logistical issues, such as the enormous cost of five years of school and the unacceptable strain on my marriage of a year studying in Israel, not to mention the remaining four in Los Angeles or New York or Ohio. All of which would be hard to justify considering I’m much more interested in learning all the stuff a person needs to learn in order to become a rabbi than I am in working as one. Most importantly, as I told the man who brought up the subject Friday night, right now I don’t feel I’m being called to the rabbinate.

Still, last night, lying in bed, I started to wonder what it would be like to go to rabbinic school, and what I might do if I were ordained. Then I fell asleep, and had the following dream:

I was standing at a ticket booth, trying to buy passage to my intended destination. The woman behind the counter said she couldn’t sell me the ticket right then, but I should give her my cell phone number and she would call me when it was time for me to get my ticket.

There was a bit of a language barrier, and the woman seemed unable to explain why I couldn’t buy the ticket right then. It seemed like she didn’t understand why I would want her to explain; I should just take her word for it and do as she requested. I tried to tell her I had everything I need to buy the ticket right then, but she insisted I needed to wait for the call.

During this conversation the man behind me in line grabbed my arm, and then spun me around, telling me to do what the woman said. When I told him, “Don’t touch me!” he became angry and threatening.

So there I was, standing between two aspects of God: the one who tries to direct us onto the right path even when it is contrary to our will and even if we don’t (or, perhaps, in that place and time are not meant to) understand why we ought to go that way; and the angry aspect who gets ticked off when we try to insist on doing what we want instead of having the faith to follow the good advice we’re being given.

Was the dream a message from God, telling me not to pursue the rabbinate unless and until God sends me a calling to do so, or was it just a subconscious rationalization to excuse myself from looking into it? Since I believe in following my instincts and doing what feels right, it doesn’t really matter what caused the dream. Right now, I’m content to wait for the call. And if it never comes, that’s fine with me. My life is pretty darn good just the way it is.


  1. what a powerful, powerful post. dreams are amazing and your insight and ability to be in tune to yourself and the messages inherent within? incredible. thanks for sharing this!

  2. Minnesota Mamaleh -

    Thanks. I tend to have fairly literal dreams, so it's generally easy to know what they mean.