These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

The Frustrations of Being an American Rabbi…

Posted on February 10, 2012 by Derek Kwait

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As I was browsing through my hard drive yesterday I rediscovered this dramatic monologue I wrote for my Playwriting class in college. Here it is with slight emendations, I hope you enjoy it.

(I apologize for the weird spacing, I don’t know why it’s like that, it’s not intentional.)

(A rabbi’s office. The wall is lined with

bookshelves stuffed with books surrounding a

small, cluttered wooden desk. RABBI GOLDENHERTZ

begins seated behind desk, LARRY is seated in

front of it.)


Well, that is an excellent question, Lar, an excellent

question. And believe me when I tell you that nothing

makes me happier than to see people actively

questioning the tradition. To question it is to take

part in it. But before I answer you, would you please

indulge me to digress for just a moment, please. Like

our esteemed president, Mr. Silver says, that is my

job, after all. Right? Haha? Digression? No matter. But

I want to tell you I actually found myself thinking

about your son Trevor’s Bar-Mitzvah was

six years ago, right? Ah, but I remember it as though

it were yesterday. He did such a fantastic job, you

should continue to schep such nachas from that boy. We

studied together for over a year–Torah, Talmud,

Hebrew..ah, his Hebrew and reading ability improved so

much in such a short time, and how he sang the portion

of that week! Beautiful! I was so proud, I can’t

imagine how you must have felt! But the best part of

it, Larry, the most meaningful for me, is always the

part where they actually know what it is they’re

saying– The speech! He wrote it himself, you know.

Remember how he went on and on about the importance of

living a Jewish life, and education, and the beauty of

mitzvahs, and the tradition, and on and on….You want

to know why I was thinking about this Larry, what

brought it up? I actually saw Trevor last Shabbos–for

the first time since he gave that speech. I was walking

home from shul and saw him sitting on the roof of his

car outside KFC, getting very close and personal with

some Oriental girl. Do you know her Larry? (pause) She

Jewish?… Haha! But I suppose I shouldn’t be so

surprised–listen to me ranting but that is my job

right, isn’t that what you all say, behind my back when

I try to do my job?…Haha!I see my former students

all the time at the mall or outside school or in the

park, their parents give me their money to bring them

into the Covenant then once they’re in it they,

they…they use their God-given free choice quite

effectively, let’s put it that way. But it’s not their

fault, I don’t see the parents as often as I’d like

either, Larry. Look, I’m a rabbi, books are my

companions, but I like schmoozing and football too, you

know! I can’t tell you how often it is that I help a

child become B’nai-Mitzvah, I get close with him or her

and they do such a wonderful job, and we’re all so

proud… then besides two days a year, I never see the

family again until Grandma dies and they need someone

to make them feel good at the funeral. Perhaps it’s a

roundabout way of saying it Larry, but all this just

goes to show all the more so how much I appreciate it

when someone actually comes to me with a good question

to ask! Now I know I haven’t wasted my time reading all

these books (gestures around the room) haha! So it’s a

good thing I went to Seminary for five years, gave my

life to trying to attempt to understand and teach the

limitless depths of our sacred 3,000-year-old

tradition, sacrificed so much to live as an example for

my congregation after all then. That’s why I’m always

so thrilled when people come to me with questions to

ask, important questions–Rabbi, is it ok if I marry

this girl even though she’s not Jewish? I hope so

because she’s kind-of pregnant; Rabbi, why is kosher

so stupid; Rabbi my new cat’s a boy, when will you be available to

circumcise it?; Rabbi, how dare you say I can’t go out on seafood night

with my friends! What-just because they’re not Jews they’re bad people

all of a sudden, who do you think you are, Rabbi?; But Rabbi, hunting

is what’s restful for me on Saturdays, not reading books; But Rabbi,

orgies make me feel closer to God, how dare you be so judgmental; it’s

my body, Rabbi I can do what I want

if I want a tattoo; you think everyone’s the same,

Rabbi, you think you know me; Rabbi, my teacher failed

me why does God hate me so much?; Rabbi, you shouldn’t

be so preachy, it drives members away, why can’t you

just do your job and make people feel better about

themselves; Rabbi! Rabbi! Rabbi!… (breathes.) Yes,

they do keep me busy, God bless them for their

interest. 1 Bar-Mitzvah, 1 funeral, 1 permission to do

whatever you want…would you like fries with that? How

about bacon? (pause) Haha! Again, forgive me for the

digression, but it is what I went to school for, after

all right! Haha! So I’ll finally answer your question

now Larry– I suggest you do what you want then tell

people it’s ok because I told you so. Because otherwise

you’d do it anyway and ignore my advise or else find

another rabbi who will say it’s ok. So I’m saving you a

step, haha! (pause. LARRY looks vacantly at RABBI

GOLDENHERTZ)So go right on ahead, take your garlic pill

on Yom Kippur, because God-forbid your blood pressure

should get a little high for a day. Just don’t sit next

to me afterwards, haha! (pause) But I’m just kidding of course,

it’s always nice to see you Larry, give my best to

Corrine and Trevor and..and that daughter of yours, what was her name again?