This past weekend I read in Mishpacha Magazine an article regarding Rabbis and the pulpit, titled “Pressure at the Pulpit.” This article was for me an eye-opener as I always wondered what stress being part of the Rabbinate entailed. Here are some from that article, thanks to Yisroel Besser:
1. Never enough pay. Hey, money is on the top of EVERYBODY’s list, no matter what ones title is. (Note: for many non-profit organizations, payment is rarely rendered on time.)
2. Being “lonely at the top.” Trying to be “part of the guys” is never the same again as your presence dies down the sound of a few friends joking around. All of a sudden you’re a mood killer.
3. No rest on Shabbos. While most people work 24/5 or 24/6, Rabbis work 24/7 as Shabbos is likely the busiest day for them.
(Note: A friend of mine noted that this also takes a toll on children as a) they’re always being scrutinized as “the Rabbi’s son,” or b) their initial impressions of Shabbos is having to server over 100 guests.)
4. Poorly quantifiable results. When one tries to perform Kiruv or Chinuch on people, the process is usually slow and painful. And, if someone becomes better, it’s difficult to gauge whether or not YOU were the direct cause of it. Only Hashem knows. This adds frustration to the stress.
5. No overtime pay. When congregants/students/laypeople ask for advice or words of wisdom, everything is to be provided for free. Another professional like a doctor, lawyer, etc. wouldn’t stand for this.
6. The profession is merely titled “the Rabbinate,” meaning that different roles are not properly defined. A Rabbi is unfairly expected by his congregants to perform everything, thus not allowing for a separation of roles among different types of Rabbonim.
7. Rabbis ironically rarely have time to learn. When stress reaches an all-time high and one feels like dirt, the only eitzah is to open a Gemarah (to think about something else besides other issues). This seems to be why many Yeshivos place a high emphasis on learning – in order to provide a tool with which to “get away” from other problems. However, it’s rare as the Rabbi needs to do so many activities throughout the day that inhibits his studies.
Clearly, the Rabbinate is not a profession for a nice young Jewish boy. People go into it mainly for idealistic and therefore “the right” reasons, but in the end, almost nobody knows what they’re getting themselves into. And the worst part is that it gets more taxing the more one’s in that field.
This article should be a source of Chizuk to Rabbis all around, that someone out there “knows and cares.” Personally, dealing with work-related stress, I secretly, from time to time, wondered, “a Rabbi. Why couldn’t I just be a Rabbi? Open a Sefer, speak my mind off in Shiurim, and get paid. Oh yeah, summers off if I’m a Rebbi in a Yeshiva.” Well, I guess it’s a good thing I’m not!