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Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

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“Do you think that, as a rabbi, you are forced to fake your feelings more than other people?”

We were sitting at lunch, and I was enjoying one of my favorite camp meals. Particularly achy from a full morning of physical labor, I’d confessed to my friend that I didn’t feel like getting up from the table to greet a staff member who had just arrived at camp. This friend is quite perceptive; my face no doubt betrayed my emotional exhaustion, which was the real source of my unwillingness to summon a cheerful greeting.

There is something about being at camp that inspires deep conversations about who we are. Maybe it’s because we are living with our co-workers—praying together every morning, learning and playing together all day, eating every meal together. I don’t know what surprises me more: the fact that we have these conversations, often with people we’ve known only a few weeks, or our ability to conduct these conversations in the crowded, noisy Dining Hall.

As I polished off my sandwich, we discussed the various professions that require a person to act in a friendly manner to all people, even toward those she might genuinely dislike. We refined the question, examined it and, although we answered it, I am still sitting with it.

Aside from professional obligation, I personally strive to greet everyone cheerfully, just as Shammai counseled in the first century (Mishnah Avot 1:15). I don’t know if Shammai was faking his feelings—his reputation as a grouch has persisted for nearly two millennia—but I suspect he understood the social contract that obligated him to be pleasant toward people.

Do I think that, as a rabbi, I am forced to fake my feelings more than other people? I don’t know. It’s almost impossible to distinguish whether I behave this way because I am a rabbi or simply because I am a human.

I’ll tell you what I do think, though. As a rabbi, I love to chew on a good question during my favorite lunch at camp.

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Comments (2)

Your chosen profession is what you do,not who
you are.
You are one of the brightest, most thoughtful women
I ever met at CRD. Your not being in the “mood” to
Be at your best, makes you even truer to yourself.
Shabbat shalom!
Kammy

Kammy, thank you for this comment! Not only at camp, but in life, I strive to keep my inner self & outer expressions true to my “self.” Wish you were here; missing you & Megan this summer. Shavua tov!

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