Career Rabbis Should Stick With What They Know

12 Oct
shmuli shmueli advice

(Ahh, don't read into my choice of pictures too much.)

My friend in Edison yeshiva told me a story about his Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Yosef Eichenstein, which I really liked. At a yeshiva dinner, R’ Eichenstein got up and said that parents complain to him sometimes that when their boys go home for bein hazmanim (sukkos, pesach, summer vacation, off shabbasim, etc.) they don’t learn. They sleep late, schmooze, stay up late. Why aren’t their sons more serious about learning if they go to yeshiva?

R’ Eichenstein answered from the dais like this: You ever watch a duck swimming in a lake? On the surface the duck looks calm, floating there without a care in the world. But when you look underneath the water, “he’s paddling like hell”. (Exact quote.)

He was saying: Parents simply don’t understand what it’s like to be a teenager in yeshiva. Do you know how much effort it takes to come off as a passable human being in a high-pressured 7AM-11PM+ environment that you’re forced to go to? No, you have no idea. So you make demands on another person on top of everything they’re doing to stay afloat.

It’s the same story with so many things in life. People in totally different positions judging others based on their own reality. The pretty, skinny girl judging the fat girl for acting slutty to get attention. The young Modern Orthodox doctor berating kollel families to just get a job and stay off food stamps. The straight person telling the gay guy to control his yetzer hora. You just sit on your high horse and turn your nose up at the dirty peasants.

I went to a shul in a certain frum town and heard the Rabbi (a 60 year old married posek) tell everybody that it’s assur to wear your skirt any higher than 4 inches below the knee and he’s shocked to see bais yaakov girls wearing it just below the knee. In the same speech, he told everybody that the internet is assur except at work and filtered, and that everybody should learn in shul during all their free time. “Why am I the only one here sometimes- besides for the parents who have to learn with their kids?” Then he spent the next 5 minutes speaking about humility and how everyone has ga’avah and has to learn mesilas yesharim many times to even understand that they have it.

I have to admit, he was self-deprecating by the mussar part, which took some of the edge off, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. The problem with him, and really, with most Rabbonim is that they are sheltered from the real world. In the real world, you need to use the internet. If you’re a girl, you need to compete with not only movies and internet porn, but regular women on the street who can dress in much more revealing clothing, and still be attractive (or it it attracting? I forget the exact hairsplitting chakira just now). And why is the Rabbi the only one there on Sundays and Shabbos afternoons? Maybe because it’s his job. Maybe because you’ve been rewarded your entire life for being such a talmid chochom, and you’ve never had to get off the gravy train and pull the wagon with everyone else. That part really ticked me off.

Before you look down at everyone else for “running around” doing other things, imagine what it might be like to not be the fair-haired champion of the Party-approved game and have to run around to find an arena you’re actually good at before you can feel halfway decent (yet still guilty for not learning) about yourself. You want to learn a real mussar lesson about life? Maybe the guy in the back who spends all his time selling mortgages yet still can’t make ends meet, who always comes to shul late with his tie half on, who still brings his son to shul to learn chumash on Shabbos afternoon, and is embarrassed by you and other people because it’s the only topic he’s good at and enjoys learning; maybe he can teach you what humility feels like.


16 Responses to “Career Rabbis Should Stick With What They Know”

  1. frum single female October 12, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    i definitely agree with you that when a lot of these rabbis go on their rants they don’t really understand what the reality of the situation is.

  2. CV October 12, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Well said. BTW, was this a Rabbi in Lakewood, I have a feeling I know who you were speaking of.

    • itchemeyer October 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      ๐Ÿ™‚ yup. you got it.

      • CV October 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

        Hmm, but you don’t live there, were you staying at friend? I’m trying to figure out if I ever saw or met you.

        • itchemeyer October 16, 2011 at 9:08 am #

          I was staying at a friend. Hotter or colder?

  3. Dan October 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm #


  4. For Real October 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    At last, a guy who understands what us women go through (applause).

    But you got one thing wrong: ultimately, any activity that makes the price of pussy drop, whether the offender is fat or skinny, gets under our skins. Simple economics.

    I’d like to see if the type of rabbi you mention will even HAVE listeners in 15 years. Who REALLY likes hearing about how horrible they are for doing what they need to get by?

    • itchemeyer October 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

      ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t know. I saw a chubby girl kind of putting it out there, and this skinny hot girl commented like, “ugh, look at that, pritzus, it’s embarrassing.” And all of a sudden, I felt a connection with the fat girl. I felt like I understood exactly why she was doing what she was, and I even respected her. She was working with what she had. maybe long-term it affects the “price”, but I don’t think so. Hot girls aren’t lacking for attention no matter how tznius they act.

      • For Real November 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

        No, you’re right about the one girl’s actions not really doing anything. I’m just tired of the whole “date women but never marry thing” the seculars have. Even here, if a guy has a pulse and a job, he gets dates, while if a girl isn’t 100% perfect….you’re 100% right. Go random chubby girl!!!

        • itchemeyer November 8, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

          ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, since we’re doing either the temporary marriage or open mikva idea, I’m not sure where that leaves us here…

  5. BrainRants October 17, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    I really find your posts interesting, but completely miss the (yiddish?) words.

    • itchemeyer October 17, 2011 at 9:35 am #

      Im sorry. I was actually thinking about that when I wrote it. Its just hard to substitute English words to capture the meaning without sounding awkward.

  6. Gutman Braun October 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    Mother comes to the rabbi with a problem: “Rabbi, my son has gone crazy”

    Rabbi: “Oy vey, what’s he done?”

    Mom: “He kashered the kitchen, he wont allow questionable kashrus in the house, he wont go to movies and made us get rid of anything unorthodox.”

    Rabbi: “I see, but as you know, I am the same way.”

    Mom: “Yeah, but you do it for a living!”

  7. johnthesavage01 October 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Hey, I’m kinda new here but I’m already loving this site.

    It’s good to know that I’m not the only one frustrated with Judaism.

    I go to a secular college and I see almost every Jew I know go off the derech. I think it’s because they also hold these frustrations but they don’t see any viable option except to leave Judaism entirely. Hope to come here more often. Great article btw.

    • itchemeyer October 23, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

      Hey john, thanks! Yeah I think youre right. Theres no room for most people to be themselves, so when they find a group where they fit in, they join up. Its a shame.

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