The secret Jewish Cannabis History and Wisdom teachings of all ages

Thursday, June 16, 2005

good rebbe vs. bad rabbi

"Why do they call us Rabbi?
because we're "Ra" (evil,) but we get by."
Shlomo, paraphrased, heard from Moish

Connected to the previous piece, the mystery of Lishma Vs. Lo Lishma brings up the question: what makes one Rabbi (master, or teacher) good, and another bad?

I've heard, it's directly related to the question of what makes one Rabbi succesful, and another not.

To be successful, and by this, we mean not poor, you have to lie. Just a little bit. Just enough to be popular, to be beloved, to be trust worthy. All fortune begins with a crime, and the original sin of rabbinical success is that we found a loophole for getting paid for it.

Quite the phenomenon of modern Judaica, going back quite awhile. Technically, it's forbidden to make any profit from Torah, but if there's no money in it, who will do it? It's the Anti-filesharing argument, the anti-bootleg thing. If the artists aren't making money, they won't make music.

Or maybe they'll only make good music, because they care, or something.

But no, we need Rabbis, to answer the questions of the community, to tell us if our chickens our kosher, because we didn't have time or care to learn to do it ourselves. We wanted someone we could go to to arbitrate our spiritual and terrestrial responsibilities, so we made a loophole: If the poor guy is being kept from getting an actual job by his function as a rabbi, or scholar in training, then, well, a stipend to recompense him for that can't be bad, right?

And so, if THAT's ok, then, you know, if we need him to come and visit our synagouge, and speak on the sabbath, or organize a big singles weekend, then paying him for that, under some properly phrased contractual condition, that should be cool too... as long as we do it kosher-style.

So it's become, that rabbis, of most every denomination, excluding none that I can think of, except for maybe some of the most pious chassidic and sephardi individuals, make most of their money from work done on the sabbath, because it's not "really" work, and they're technically being paid for the ten minutes they put in friday afternoon.

Is this corrupt? No criticsm, we all gotta eat... but maybe that's why so few of these figures, across the board, have anything very groundshaking to say. Even to the degree that positive ideas get spread, about loving your neighbor, and seeking god, and forgiving yourself, and getting to work, and actualizing potential, even as important and compelling as these themes, at their best, can be, not much is ever done that shocks or threatens.

It would be "foolish" for a Rabbi to do this. He might lose his job, he probably will, if he offends the congregants. And so, he is their spiritual slave, subject to their moralities, and functioning only to help them do what they have already become willing to do.

Which can be great. And nothing of true inspiration can come out of that, unless the people have drafted it upon themselves already. So maybe, it's no wonder the kids get alienated.

So what's a failed rabbi? One who spends the money immediately, and does what he does whether you support him or not. How does he survive? Sometimes, people are drawn to him, seeing a rare religious phenomenon: an honest spiritual authority.

It's very dangerous to do this, and you generally can't get away with it unless you have some external form of income. Chabad, Aish HaTorah, and hillel houses across the U.S. may not want you to know that Shlomo Carlebach was officially forbidden from playing at their institutions from most of the eighties on down, once it was clear that he was his own denomination, and that his torah was not for the sake of their institutions. As opposed to other contemporaries of his who went on to various degrees of "success" in finding the niches where their styles were sought after, and their torahs acceptable and even comforting, Shlomo pretty much burned himself out, his most quoted Torahs nowadays being the ones that re-enforce everything from the settler movements to how good shabbos is, the biting criticsm of the jewish establishments conveniently ignored.

And of course, to the degree that he said things that were paletable and comforting, and made you feel like Judaism was a good religion, practiced by good people, he was successful. And still is. Please note that his Torahs were often darker and more confrontational, especially in his last year or so, when he'd say stuff like "people who scream at their kids are killing them, mamish killing them, like the nazis never could" and "The rabbis in Israel, i'm sure they're doing their best, but I wish they'd all just fly off to bermuda and let the kids figure it out for themselves; they have a better handle on what it's all about than their parents ever could."

What else can't I say because of who my friends are and where my support is coming from?

In hebrew, the word for drugs (SaM) is etymylogically related to the word for blind (SooMA), because they blind you to one reality, so that another can be seen. Also connected to bothe words is the word "SoMeCh" meaning "support" or "hold up." Our lies that keep us together save us from seeing all the little terrible things we do, and hold us up so we can continue to ignore them in the name of getting on with our lives. Blessed is he who releases captives from their own enslaveries.

When a Rabbi is ordained, what's it called? SMiCha, from the same root. Mamish, from the same root.

Why is it so important to keep things how they are?
Because i'm so afraid to die.


Blogger donbonus said...

The frog/tzipor-deah/knowledge-seeker is the size of 60 houses/60 tractates. Along comes the snake/lo lishmah/desire to be rabbi, and swallows up the frog. Along comes the raven/orev/arbit/learning Torah she b'al peh at night, and swallows the snake. The raven perches on the tree/chesed of Avraham Avinu. What an awesome tree that must be! (paraphrase of Likutei Moharan)

7:36 PM

Anonymous T said...

hey i really am loving your site! Such an intresing perspective, one that ive never heard before. Please put up some links of websites, cuz i want to know more!!

7:35 PM

Blogger Rabbi Steve said...


I would desperatly like to know the exact source of where Rabenu Z"l Nachman stated:
"All evil comes from the desire to rule"

Please Email me the answer

4:35 PM

Blogger Yoseph Leib said...

likutei moharan torah 56 is where i think i heard it from.

6:23 PM


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