Reb School Question #0
Everyone told me, "You want to teach Tanakh? Gemara? etc.? You need to be a rabbi!"
So for almost four years of college, I assumed that I would go to rabbinical school afterwards. My senior year, about halfway through the year, I called up RIETS, and after a somewhat frustrating conversation with a confused office worker, convinced them to mail me an application because no, I couldn't just come over to the office and pick one up because no, I don't go to Yeshiva University, so no, i don't know where the office is and I'm two hundred miles away in Upstate New York!
Ahem. «cough cough»
Every line of the address on the envelope was misspelled. Which wasn't actually the reason why I decided not to go to rabbinical school (or "reb school" as our Conservative brethren-and-sistren abbreviate it), but it made a funny story to say so.
I decided that I wasn't interested in being a rabbi. I want to teach Tanakh. Sure, other things too, but mostly Tanakh. I want to be a Tanakh teacher. To be a Tanakh teacher, you don't need to be an expert on the laws of milk and meat; you don't need to be able to adjudicate nida cases; and you don't need to be able to explain the permissibility or impermissibility of using water heated by a dud shemesh on Shabbos. I mean, sure, all those things are important for living a self-aware and self-confident halakhic Jewish lifestyle. But they weren't necessary immediately for my career.
So instead of going to RIETS for four years, I went to a two-year teacher training program in Israel. I learned Tanakh and Gemara, Parshanut and Pedagogy, and came back to NYC ready to teach.
Just one problem.
Many of the schools I tried to get a job at barely glanced at my resume... one reason being, I wasn't a rabbi. Back at the end of college and in Israel, I thought it would be cool to fight the system, prove to the world that you don't need to be a rav to be a teacher. It turned out doing that was a bit harder than I expected.
So over the last few years of teaching, I came to the conclusion that I probably should go get semikha some time soon. Not just because it would help my career, but especially because I know that there are whole realms of Jewish knowledge out there that, as I said above, are necessary for living a self-aware halakhic life, and I just don't know. In some cases, I have vague recollections of general principles and terms from Halakha class in high school, but none of the details. So even though it's not practical for my career as a teacher — since, after all, even if you're teaching Halakha you're not going to be going into such depth of detail — it's still something that I came to the conclusion is important to do.
So I looked a little at RIETS, I looked a little at YCT, I conducted survey-interviews of friends and acquaintances who are now at or who recently graduated from one or the other of those two schools. I have time — I'll still be working this coming school year (iy"H), so I've got a while to fill out applications, talk to administrators and rebbeim, and sit in on classes and shiurs — and I got really into the whole exploration process...
...But now I'm not so sure.
After attending YCT's semikha ceremony this past Sunday, I'm having trouble imagining myself up on that stage (or whatever the structural-spatial equivalent is over at RIETS). I'm a teacher. I have no interest in pulpits or in pesaq. Channeling the ADD energy of 21st century high school students towards an appreciation of our Jewish Texts and Traditions is enough responsibility for me for one lifetime; I don't think I could take responsibility for answering halakhic shaalas. And I definitely do not feel like rav umanhig beYisra’eil material. Just give me a classroom and a bunch of students who aren't completely hostile. I'll be fine. But I'm not ready to carry the Israelite Nation like a breast-fed baby. There's a very simple reason why I, notwithstanding my anarchistic-egalitarian sensibilities, have a heck of a lot of traditional hierarchical respect for rabbis — and it's not because halakha mandates expressing that respect through action — it's because they do something so immensely important, that I can't imagine doing myself.
So Reb School Question #0 is — before any of the 'where's, 'how's, or 'what's — why? Or why not? Yes? Or no? At least I've still got at least half a year to figure that part out.