The position of rabbi is perhaps the most important and central role in Jewish communal life… and no one gets as much grief from the people around him, either. The rabbi is honored and respected, unless he’s completely disrespected and disliked. It’s not easy being completely honest and forthright to the people who pay your salary.
Beyond the problems with congregants, being a rabbi involves other challenges, as well. The rabbi has to perform many functions and fill many roles for which he may or may not be prepared; there’s a good chance that he’s wildly underpaid; his wife is often expected to work for the synagogue for free. Frankly, the halachic training that is necessary to become a rabbi may end up being the easy part of the job. It’s everything that comes along with it that can make the position of rabbi exceptionally demanding.
Rabbi David Fine acknowledges the difficulties, but nonetheless loves being a rabbi and can’t imagine doing anything else. He cofounded an organization, Barkai, which trains rabbis in Israel in the practical rabbinic knowledge that they likely never learned in yeshiva. And while he doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the challenges that rabbis and rabbinic couples face, he has a very optimistic view of what the life of a rabbi can be.
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