Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ripening Fruit

Parshat Metzora
3 Nisan, 5771
April 7th, 2011

Among the reasons I love being a rabbi is the freedom people give me to be weird. What was thought odd in polite society has magically become “rabbinic” now that I’m ordained. Trust me, I am not the only person to become clergy just so people wouldn’t scratch their heads at him.
This lovely leeway has had a surprising benefit, one for which I’m really grateful. Because people have been so respectful, I’ve been able to carve out a little mental garden for ideas which are not yet ripe. Every once in a while I will show one or the other of these ideas to someone, and they will politely comment that my half-baked theology is really coming along nicely, or that my naïve spirituality looks promising.
I think everyone should be allowed such a garden. In truth, really worthwhile ideas take years to mature. They are often slow in coming, require care, and seem insipid or to lack taste before they are ready. Somehow, our culture demands that we defend completely all that we think, right now. I don’t know how really good ideas can take root in such rocky soil.
I recently asked some very bright, wise people why they don’t speak up more in conversations about Torah. Each said the same thing – that they fear being thought stupid. As a person who, by nature of his job, only knows an idea’s worth after he has shared it (that’s just how it works), I mourn the fact that others do not feel the same freedom. How can we deny the promise of a fruit before it is ripe?

I have come to my garden,
my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh and spice;
eaten my honey and honeycomb,
drunk my wine and my milk.
Eat, friends, and drink…
Song of Songs 5:1 


  1. One of Rabbi Shochet's great talents was encouraging the thoughts of others at the table, and so I was able to learn from many, such as your father.

  2. From my own experience, familiarity with the text makes sharing less intimidating. Time and opportunity for discussion are key. I also have to remind myself that I don't have to be a Torah scholar to say something worthwhile.