When Imagined Real-Life Scenarios Mimic Real-Life

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 02 January 2018 @ 9:34 pm

During my third year of rabbinical school, I discovered a deep and abiding love of rabbinic legal codes. The Shulchan Aruch, in particular. I think that a lot of it had to do with our professor. He was demanding. And exacting. And intimidating.

And I learned more from him than any other professor with whom I’ve ever studied.

For our final exam in Codes, each student was assigned a different real-life situation that would require us to provide guidance to the fictitious congregant based on rabbinic legal codes.

I got the plane crash scenario.

A man and his business associate are piloting a small jet over a wooded area. The plane goes down. The search-and-recovery team finds no human remains. The family does not accept that their father has died, insisting that he was an experienced pilot. Some weeks pass. The wife and daughter accept that the man has died and plan a memorial service. The son continues to insist that his father is “out there somewhere.”

I no longer remember the other details. Time has a way of doing that. What I do remember is working so hard on that exam, and loving every moment.

And thinking that as an academic exercise, this was challenging. But not exactly a “real-life” situation.

Then a small plane crashed in Costa Rica on this past New Year’s Eve, taking two families to their shocking deaths. And several of my colleagues have had the unimaginable task of sharing this devastating news with their communities. Comforting them in the face of such horrifying tragedy. Fumbling in their grief-filled darkness for the words of consolation.

No amount of schooling can prepare a rabbi for what she is called to do. No matter how far one dives into the Codes, one resurfaces only with the practical knowledge.

That same professor gave us the following insight on the first day of our second year”

If you are a diligent student, play close attention, learn everything that we offer you, and do all the work for the next four years, you will walk away with 25% of the knowledge you will need to be a rabbi.

How blessed these communities are to have rabbis with unending compassion and bottomless souls.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Blessed is the True Judge.

And may their names always be for a blessing.

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