Sometimes I wonder if I’d be successful doing kiruv. Or rabbanus. Off the bat, you’re gonna laugh, I know, and the pros and cons here don’t paint a great picture either, but I wonder if the actual baalei teshuva/geirim/spiritually-minded in the audience would care to weigh in here.
Cons: 1. I can’t look at Jewish propaganda. A Jewish grandfather and kid laughing with white yarmulkes on and some Israel/family ad makes me cringe. An interenet meme hijacked by some mitzvah motivator makes me want to find a slightly overweight man in a suit with a black hat and trimmed beard and punch them hard, repeatedly. (You want to see someone profaning holy things? Foul Bachelor Frog promoting shacharis with only the barest pretense of humor evident.)
I can’t stand the davening. I barely ever do it except maybe once a week in shul, and then I leave out all the stuff that makes my skin crawl. Which is basically every other sentence.
I can’t imagine having to represent Judaism every second of the day. Wait, I kind of do that with my yarmulke on all the time. But that’s off sometimes, like at the beach. Plus, I don’t have to do public events and get my face plastered all over.
1. I like people listening to me.
2. I hate my job now.
3. I actually know the Jewish religion/philosophy/practice really well.
4. Hot women will suddenly be approaching ME for conversation.
5. I’m a pretty good speaker. I’m funny, and I can spin a pretty good vort out of most parshios out there. With life lessons thrown in at opportune moments.
5. Everything I say will suddenly have the weight of 3500 years of serious tradition behind it. Proxy respect, you say? My ego can’t tell the difference!
Now on to questionable areas: Would prospective religion seekers like my ideas? I can see it going both ways. Very broadly, here’s my outlook summed up in a hypothetical kiruv conversation.
Rabbi Dicker, Will I find ultimate truth in frum Judaism?
It really depends. I don’t know you well enough. It’s definitely possible you’ll be very happy for a while. Of course, then you might become even more depressed after investing your life in it and hating it. I’m not touching this one.
Is the Torah true?
Oh god. I don’t know. OK, probably not. Wait, wait! I’m just speaking rationally. You know, statistically speaking, with all the other competing traditions out there. And all the unbelievable myths, and antiquated beliefs you’ll undoubtedly find while learning through it. But really, Joanne, why does it matter?
Why does it ma-?
Yes. Let’s look at the facts on the ground here. Clearly people have a need for religion. Look at you, growing up in a secularized, rational, environment, looking now for that old time religion to follow. It’s hard going into the world by ourselves. Maybe biologically, we need this emotional support to be happy in life. Go to the most remote, ancient, primitive, villages on Earth, and they’ll all have sacred rituals that connect them with some higher forces. Just accept it and be happy. And if you’re being smart about the whole thing, while you’re at it, why not choose the one with the rituals that don’t creep you out, and that you’re already kind of familiar with, and that brings back those positive childhood memories of going to grandpa’s house?”
Hmm? Anyone think my spiel has merit? Think it’ll win me enough congregants to make Anshei Agnostics a success?
You know what? It doesn’t matter. Because at it’s essence, isn’t kiruv really just about showing a nice, smiling family around a shabbos table to people who are too emotionally screwed up to ever have it? I can do that. Shit, who am I kidding? I can’t pull that off. Maybe I’ll become a male stripper.