When I was ordained as a rabbi, I was handed a piece of paper with 13 things for a rabbi to embody, by Moses Cardover.
They are the following:
- Forbearance in the face of insult.
- Patience in enduring evil.
- Pardon, even to the point of erasing the evil suffered.
- Total identification with one’s neighbor.
- Complete absence of anger, combined with appropriate action.
- Mercy, even to the point of recalling only the good qualities of one’s tormentor.
- Eliminating all traces of vengefulness.
- Forgetting suffering inflicted on oneself by others and remember only the good.
- Compassion for the suffering without judging them.
- Mercy beyond the letter of the law with the good.
- Assisting the wicked to improve without judging them.
- Remembering all human beings always in the innocence of their infancy.
I’ll admit, I’m a cynic. Most of these sound unrealistic to the point of ridiculousness. But, I’m a relatively new and young rabbi. Is it possible that these “skills” are acquired through experience? I have no idea how to eliminate all traces of vengefulness, for instance. This seems impossible to do, even through therapy. There are those that go out of their way to take you down, to destroy your good name if only for their self-gratification. It seems, that perhaps, only time and experience can provide you with these skills above. Then again, some leaders are shaped this way long before they enter seminary, but those are few.
My question, then, is if these important aspects of a rabbi, these traits that a rabbi should embody, are what make a rabbi successful, how are we young rabbis, who have not had the time to develop these skills or acquire the experience necessary to hone these trains, to be successful?
In other words, how long do we have to be rabbis before we start being rabbis?