A classmate used to call it, when we were in school, the “rabbinical lean.” He’d summarize the conversation we had all had numerous times, when we met someone new and revealed what we were doing.
Them: So what do you do?
Us: I’m in rabbinical school.
Them: Medical school?
Us: No, rabbinical school
Them: cocking their head, leaning back a little, and genernally crossing their arms Rabbinical school…ohhhhhhhh.
The response to “I’m a rabbi,” isn’t all that different.
Being a rabbi, being any kind of clergy, the conversation of what we do for a living is never truly small talk. It often contains inappropriate shares, descriptions of any and all Jewish connections of the person to whom we’re speaking, awkward adulation, and/or sheer confusion. It sometimes causes me to give a generic, not quite a lie answer to what I do…and occasional guessing games with strangers when I say they’ll never guess what I do (they almost never guess my job)…and it’s an aspect of this life that has both challenged and delighted me over the years (for every strange conversation, there are also just as many wonderful and interesting conversations that come out of these moments).
A friend recently posted this video on facebook:
I think that Sarah Heath really encapsulates what has been my struggle. It’s been hard for me to embrace the different aspects of myself–especially the rabbi me with the rest of me.
It’s only recently, over the past few years, that I’ve been able to embrace it. For so long I ran away from the congregational rabbinate because I wasn’t really comfortable with the coexistence of my rabbinic self with my secular self. But I think I’m finally there. Mostly. I’m at peace with being me and embracing the fact that there are different aspects to who “me” is. I’m at peace with just being, and not trying to figure out which self I have on.
That’s actually where the rabbiisa moniker comes from and why I use it for the majority of my online presence and social networking–isa is a nickname of mine since college and rabbi is, obviously, my title…rabbiisa is my way of combining those aspects of myself. Sometimes apparently different….apparently oppositional…this is my way of bringing them together…of stating outright that they have equal parts in my me.