Of Rabbis

I fear Rabbis.  It amuses me that I didn’t always fear them.  I so nonchalantly walked into the first Rabbi’s office.  I smiled.  I assumed he’d see me the way everyone else saw me.  I’m a woman who never failed a job interview, who was always well thought of, who impressed teachers and professors and always earned the grade.

I assumed that conversion would be no different.  I’d prove myself.  I’d study hard.  I’d be judged on the merits of hard work and good manners and, eventually, I’d earn my place the same way I’d earned degrees and promotions.

How very wrong I was.

Whatever metric the Rabbi was using to measure me, the unaware smiling gentile expressing her heartfelt attraction to Judaism…I fell short.  And, in one way or another, I really have felt that I’ve fell short with most Rabbis since.  It’s not that I don’t try or that I’m rebellious or loud.  I try to quietly blend in.  I occasionally speak up to answer a question in their classes, just to show that I have been listening and I do understand.  I measure my sentences and questions out like baking ingredients, careful not to oversalt the conversation.  Too much salt and it won’t rise.  Too little and it will be bland.

And yet, even though it’s rarely expressed outright, I always have this feeling that I’ve disappointed in some way or that my sincere actions are suspect.  I used to obsess over what I *might* be doing wrong, picking at my observance, my dress, my studies…looking for whatever it was that they might be seeing.  Now, I accept that I simply may be a foreign object to them, something that they can’t quite puzzle out and that wears at their mind.  Maybe it’s less about what I do or say and more about what I am?  In any case, it doesn’t seem to be something I have the power to change.

So, like so many other things…I work to let go of it.

We meet with a Rabbi again this week and I consciously fight the urge to pick at myself, worrying over what I should or shouldn’t say or what I should or shouldn’t wear.  At this point, after this many years, I have to accept that whatever will happen will happen and that my fear or urge to please has little to do with whatever determinations are made.

I still fear Rabbis.  The first people, besides a former Mother in law that I felt I could never please and yet, just like that mother in law, I ache so badly for approval from.  I wonder…will that approval ever come?

3 thoughts on “Of Rabbis

  1. Oy, I’m so sorry to hear this.
    As a baalas teshuvah (frum religious woman from a non religious famiyl), I can never really relate to this. You see, we have kiruv; thats when orthodox rabbis try to make you more orthodox. I was mekareved- kiruved- by orthodox rabbis, not turned down and made to feel inadequate. And I’ve always been glad I haven’t had to go through what you and other gerim did. Wish you loads of hatzluche! Hope the next rabbi is a good one!


    1. I’ve learned that Rabbis are people and just like any other people, they have their off days and quirks and some…aren’t even nice. Still, many are. I’ve also had some really great experiences with Rabbi’s too and I think that things will definitely be different when we’re converted. Conversion itself is a pretty messy process and often doesn’t show you and individual Rabbi’s best side. As well, insincere converts in the past have also burned many Rabbi’s, so it’s easy to see where the conflict comes from.

      I can say I have learned a lot from every Rabbi I’ve interacted with, even the ones where it was painful. Each one, in some way, has helped me along this path and helped me to grow, even if it was learning to take my tears to my davening and not have my faith shaken.

      In the end, it’s all for our good.

      Liked by 1 person

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