Had a great talk tonight with our Temple's rabbi.
...and I wanted to say a lot about it, but apparently it's one of those that had too deeply personal an impact for me to process and share right away. That or I'm stalling.
I asked her opinion of some of the independent rabbinic schools, and her answers led us into a very open, frank discussion about the education, job, and life of a rabbi, and I completely got it. She made me realize my doubts aren't necessarily problematic, and to some extent they will never really go away.
One of the questions we discussed was why does everyone that feels drawn to Jewish life & work feel that becoming a rabbi is the only way to express it? Would it be possible to get the same benefit, spiritual/intellectual development, and community involvement by, hypothetically, being director of a JCC and taking lots of night classes?
Well, frankly, yes. That's a large part of the problem.
But having her ask me this made me do something I haven't done much recently; I had to argue my case for wanting to be a rabbi instead of taking this other path. And that forced me to refine a couple things in my mind to the point I could express them as arguments..
Basically, a large part of it is a matter of direction and perspective. I wouldn't become a rabbi so that I could be that JCC director, but if I became a rabbi and then took a job as JCC director that would be fine. Small difference, but important one.
Also, I want the link to Jewish communal life to extend beyond my current job. When I was bouncing around the non-profit world in a previous life, I felt at times like a mercenary. I will care deeply and passionately about whatever cause I am paid to believe in. What'cha got, heart disease? Great; let's go fundraise for that. Last week it was starvation in Afghanistan, and next week it'll be adopted children with developmental difficulties, but for now I completely and truly care about heart disease. It started feeling shallow and false, and completely at odds with the reasons I got into non-profit work. Being a rabbi is, first of all, for me. More than that, it represents the link, the common thread in my life. I may work with a congregation, or a summer camp, or a JCC, but as I move between those worlds I will still be a rabbi.
I don't know if I explained that well, it's gotten late and I've had a long day, but that's the evening's epiphany.