Friday, November 20, 2009

Me a Rabbi?

Life was only about to get even stranger. All I wanted was for things to make sense. Nothing else made any difference. I was tired of being so childish, insecure and scared. I needed to have everything together. I must say, I was brave and I was motivated. I wanted a girl. I wanted to be a man. I wanted to be proud of myself. I had spent this past year reading motivational books. I had been reading about goals and about asking. I realized that I must decide what I want and go for it. I had also read about marketing, leverage and using ones talents. I decided that teaching was my greatest talent. I also realized that I was so scared of facing those kids, it was terrifying. I sensed that, it could take me many years to get myself into the classroom and comfortable teaching. I imagined that if I cut out all those years of waiting and went straight for my goal, that would get me to where I was going in the quickest way possible. Looking back, I was lacking so much knowledge in what it took to be an adult and train, prepare and take ones profession seriously. It was more like I was trying to escape thinking about what was going on inside and who I was. I wanted to have things perfect already so that I could be an adult and get what I want without facing the pain and the questions that would make me encounter the many ages of growth that I had skipped. I didn't want to think about questions and lack of knowing, I wanted all to be known, clear and settled.

Someone I had known for a while who had now become a Principal of a school her in LA. I asked him if I could meet with him. I knew how to talk and I knew how to dress and he told me that he would give me a job. I was going to teach Hebrew and Talmud. In my mind, I was hoping that teaching in a Modern Orthodox Jewish Day School would be an innocuous position. I imagined that perhaps I would still be able to live at least part of the newly liberated life I had been looking forward to living out in California. This was all a great delusion. As soon as I knew I was teaching I went right back into the mode that I was trying to escape. Now I knew that everyone in the community knew that I would be teaching in so and so school. It was an orthodox school!! I could be a shagetz, I couldn't be free. I couldn't hang out with girls which was an important hope in my vision of coming to California. Now I had to be a respectable part of society. I had a job, I had a purpose, and I stood for a certain standard of morals. How did I do this to myself?
Now I was under scrutiny. Some of the members of my community, had their children in the school I was teaching in. Although, it could be that the more lenient standard of their own observance would cut me a little slack, my internal freedom was over. I was so angry. All I wanted was to be free. I just want to be my own man. I want to think on my own and act on my own. It seems like it should be so simple. How could I possibly live without that and how am I doing things that trap me under the scrutiny and judgment of other people?

To make matters worse, on the day before school was about to begin, my friend, the principal asked me if I had smicha, meaning, could I be called Rabbi, I said no. "I'm giving you Semicha" he said half jokingly. What he meant was that for this year, I would be called Rabbi. I felt anger surge up inside me. I felt the compelling urge to stop him in his tracks and say that I could not take the job if being called Rabbi was one of the qualifications. I just didn't have the strength. I didn't want to risk my job. I held my tongue. I was so angry. I felt like I had just sealed the fate of my death. Now, I had just rebelled against the things I held most dear. I hated Rabbi's, I hated being a Jew, I hated the burden and the responsibility. I had done all in my power to seek freedom, options and the space to listen to who I am and now, I had just robbed myself of all that I had worked for. I had lied, I had stolen from myself. No, the door was shut now. This year would not be a year when I could express myself. I needed to hide my true questions, my doubts and my skepticism. I would need to pretend that I was another orthodox Jew like the rest. I believed, yes of course, I believed in all the fundamentals. How could I be a Hebrew and Talmud teacher without believing? How could I be a "Rabbi"without believing? No, of course, I was a believer. I was certain. I was certain that I had just sealed my coffin. I had sealed my lips. I had sealed my heart from feeling. Now I was in prison. Funny, I had always known this feeling of being in prison and now I was back.