Reasons Why I Am Not A Pulpit Rabbi

There are many many reasons why I am not a pulpit rabbi. One of the biggest is that I am not a rabbi. I received a different sort of smicha, but we’ll save that post for a later date. I’d ask you to forgive me for the flippant tone, but this is my blog and I can do what I want. Sorry, been spending copious amounts of time with a toddler.

This past weekend I was privileged to spend some time at a place that I consider to be holy ground. There weren’t any burning bushes, no voices instructing me to take my shoes off, but I have seen the area go up in flames.

It is a place that has been the setting for many of the life lessons that have helped to shape who I am today. Any time I walk those hills I hear the echoes of the past. It is somewhere that I go when I am happy and when I am sad. I can beneath a star filled sky and contemplate life. I wish that somehow I could bring the feeling that I get into this blog because it would be nice to be able to share that.

Every so often the idea of the rabbinate comes up. It attracts and repulses me all at the same time. I don’t have as strong a background in classic Jewish education as I would like. Haven’t had all that much time learning Gemara as a I might like. I haven’t been fortunate enough to spend a year learning in Israel.

But that is not to say that I don’t learn, that I haven’t any education, or that I don’t have any sort of background at all. I do.

Part of my challenge is trying to figure out where I am at. From a religious perspective I am in an in between time. There are a lot of things that I cannot accept. I can’t buy some of the precepts. That is not to say that I haven’t in the past or that I won’t find them again in the future, but I am not there now.

I don’t believe that a pulpit rabbi never questions his faith. I don’t believe that you can be a good rabbi without challenging yourself. I don’t believe that you can lead or teach without taking the time to look inside. How do you try and explain to others something that you have never questioned nor experienced yourself.

More than anything, the real reason I don’t want to be a pulpit rabbi is that I don’t want to deal with the politics. I have worked in more than one shul. I have always been involved and continue to be, but that doesn’t mean that I want my livelihood tied into that.

I don’t want to have to worry about whether my sermon is considered too boring, or my ties too ugly. I don’t want to have conversations with the synagogue president about why the kiddish is this or that. I don’t think that I can go officiate at a million funerals of people I don’t know.

I am not really sure where this is going or what I am thinking about, so I think that I’ll just end this here.

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  1. Jack's Shack May 8, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    if you were a Pulpit Rabbi, and your wife had a blog, what would it be called?

    My Husband Saved Me From Living in The Land of The Lost

  2. Stacey May 8, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Jameel: His wife DOES have a blog.

  3. Jameel May 8, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Jack: If you were a Pulpit Rabbi, and your wife had a blog, what would it be called?

  4. Anonymous May 8, 2007 at 4:45 am

    Well, I was a pulpit rabbi.. I have to say politics is certainly some of it – no question. There’s also the having to softpedal halakha issue outside of Orthodox shuls ( I suppose this isn’t much of asn issue for Reform and Recon shuls, but it certainly is in Conservative ones). That’s a problem, but let’s be honest; it’s not the politics, it’s the hours.
    I know so many RKs who hate their fathers (and it was all fathers in those days, and truthfully, is mostly fathers now, too, since it’s difficult for women to get pulpit positions) because they were never around. The most depressing thing I ever heard was about a funeral for a rabbi that I know is a real person (although I wasn’t at the funeral, so can’t testify as to the anecdote) after all the congregants spoke about what a great rabbi the guy was, and how wonderful and always there for them – the son stood up and said, my father was always there for you, in all your times of crisis and need – but he was never there for me, because he was always busy with you.
    I can’t publish this under my own name – I’d never work again.

  5. Jack's Shack May 8, 2007 at 3:09 am


    Some of those questions are addressed here but not all.


    I have a friend named Ed. He is one of those special people and a rabbi, albeit not a pulpit rabbi. I always tell him that as Special Ed he could do a good job.


    See you are one up on me there. You have great taste in movies, comics, music. For that matter aside from your choice to live in jughandle central I have nothing bad to say about you. 😉


    Three minutes in third grade. Just think if you were still in school now you might win another contest. You might even want to be a rabbi for 49 minutes. 😉

    The politics is manageable, you just have to know how to deal with it. Comes with time

    I can appreciate that and I am fairly certain that I could learn to deal with it. The question comes down to whether the desire to do so is really there.

    but realized that I don’t like people that much. Oh… and tact isn’t my strong suit!

    I love that. I mean it. I am a certified curmudgeon, so there is something about that line that grabs me.


    Thanks. I belong to a large shul with a well known rav. How is that for helpful. 😉

    Email me and I’ll tell you more.

  6. Tamara May 7, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    I think your stream of conciousness post is just perfect. I totally see your reasoning on both ends.

    Jack, since I think we both live in L.A., I am curious where you go to shul because TG and I are “shul shopping”.

  7. The Babka Nosher May 7, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    I considered it at one point years ago, but realized that I don’t like people that much. Oh… and tact isn’t my strong suit!

  8. rabbij May 7, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    I have semicha, and I am a pulpit Rabbi. The politics is manageable, you just have to know how to deal with it. Comes with time… You have to keep you eyes on the goals that brought you to the position and not allow the narishkeit to distract your focus.

  9. Stacey May 7, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    I wanted to be a rabbi for about 3 minutes in 3rd grade….when I won a seder plate for being the only kid in class who could read the 4 questions in Hebrew.

  10. Elie May 7, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Well, I do have smicha, but your point about shul (and community) politics is the same reason I never pursued the pulpit rabbinate either.

  11. Annie May 7, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Being a pulpit rabbi is a hard job, often unrewarding, and definitely stressful. It takes a special type of person to be able to fill all of the necessary roles… the job is much more than just sermon-giver. I can see how it would be something that you’d be both interested in, and not.

  12. Jacob Da Jew May 7, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    I don’t get it. You numerate reasons why you don’t want to be a PR but what are your reasons to WANT to be?

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