Enter the Rebbetzin?

They didn’t expect me or I was really unusual. Either way, they clearly weren’t sure what to do with me, at least at first.

We had arrived for our day at the rabbinical school R was applying to.

We were there for a prospective students event, so there were several other students there, but no one else had a wife to bring along. I seemed somehow unexpected, as someone had to ask for an extra study packet for the morning class so I could follow along. We spent most of the morning in chevruta, study partners, with another of the prospective students. In the later class discussion, I didn’t participate much, wanting to instead see where the discussion was going. The topic for study, a special class for the day we were there, was about whether or not veal is kosher. The answer we were given was technically yes, but the practice should bediscouraged on a number of ethical grounds.

After lunch, there was a school-wide class, led in Hebrew by one of the Rabbis, on the topic of the weekly Torah portion. The hour-long lecture proved to be taxing on my Hebrew skills, although R followed along quite well and was able to answer one of the questions the rabbi posed. Afterwards, several of the students came up to talk to us, and it was nice to meet some more of R’s prospective fellow students. Next up was an informational panel about life after rabbinical school. I found this one particularly interesting, since it talked about how the rabbinical school students get their first pulpits, and it sounds like, for the most part, many of the opportunities come to the students, rather than the students having to get out there and find the opportunities. Of course, this is not true all the time, but there are organizations and synagogues that are looking for this kind of rabbi, and so, the opportunities are there. It was a good discussion about some of the practical matters that sometimes get left out when we’re talking about a calling like rabbinical school, and it was really useful. There was one more class for the day, and I was so overwhelmed with information by that point that I didn’t really absorb much from it.

Throughout the day though, I was thinking about my role in all of this. Obviously, there were no other wives there that day, but were there other wives around on other days? Clearly, not every wife would be as interested as I am in studying, and nor should they be expected to be, but the thought rolled through my head. In our case, R hadn’t decided to be a rabbi when I met him – we were only in college! I have been there for every step of the decision making process, mostly because this kind of decision effects the significant other (and the eventual children) more than others might, and I look forward to seeing where this path takes us, and where my role will be.

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6 thoughts on “Enter the Rebbetzin?

  1. An interesting post, Jess! I am sure my rebbetzin would have some advice/experience to share – so I’m forwarding your blog to her 🙂

  2. Jess,

    Ask around to different Rabbis and their spouses about the job search component of this life. It’s the ugly side of it, and worthwhile to at least find out about.

    Love the blog, btw! Keep up the good work.

    Best from NYC….

    Aaron

    • Aaron,

      Thanks for the comment! We are enjoying writing, and love hearing from our audience. 🙂 I’m on the wives listserve for the rabbinical school, so I’ve started to hear those stories a little. I’m sure it can be brutal!!

      All our best from Chicago,

      Jessica

  3. Pingback: Redefining Rebbetzin

  4. I’m reminded of a story I read in one of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s books. Some parents were looking for a school for their mentally-retarded son, and they went to a certain rabbi to ask his advice. They told him they were looking at two different schools, and thought this was was better for their son than that one, but that they wanted his advice. He asked them, “What does your son think?”. The parents were taken aback; they hadn’t thought to ask their son, who was retarded, after all. The rabbi yelled, “Bring him here to me now!”. The parents brought their son, and the rabbi laid his hands on the son’s head, and told him, “Your parents are sending you away to this certain school, and I want you to represent me there. I am now giving you semikhah, and you will be a rabbi there to represent me.” It would be that whenever holiday vacations would come, the son didn’t want to leave the school to go home, because he so strongly felt his duty to keep watch on the school.

    The point of this story, at least as Rabbi Telushkin reads it, is that one should always be concerned for those affected by decisions. Even for this mentally-retarded boy, the rabbi’s first thought was what the boy himself thought and felt.

    So why shouldn’t R’s seminary be concerned for their students’ wives?

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