Interview at A Little Yes
God is in this place: short thoughts on Vayetzei

Tales of rabbis in love


Back when I first took 70 faces on the road, I met a woman named Marilyn, in Montreal. She wanted to interview me and my spouse together for a forthcoming book on rabbinic marriages. The interview never took place, for a variety of reasons (mostly our lack of availability!) but the book is now out. It's called Rabbis In Love (LoveWise Publishing, 2013) and it was created by Marilyn Bronstein and Philip Belove. Here's part of how they describe the collection:

Rabbis aren’t monks. They fall in love, they marry, they have families. It’s expected. Jewish spirituality is rooted in daily family life; the joy, the passion, the tears, “the whole enchilada”, or as Jews would say, the whole megilla.

In the introduction, the editors tell the famed Talmudic story about the man who hides under his rabbi's bed in order to learn not only the Torah the rabbi is teaching in the classroom, but also the Torah he is teaching in the mundane acts of his ordinary life -- as the saying goes, "how he ties his shoes."

Of course, the student under the bed gets an earfull of precisely what you'd imagine, and at a certain point the student exclaims in surprise. The rabbi, startled, asks, "What on earth are you doing under the bed?" And the student replies, "This too is Torah I need to learn." It's an apt beginning for a book which features interviews about precisely this kind of Torah: the Torah of intimate relationships.

These are interviews, printed in two voices -- well, really, four: the voices of the editors, and the dual voices of the couples. And the interviews are interspersed with short reflections from the editors about what they felt they'd learned from each interview.

I gravitated toward the chapters featuring rabbis whom I already knew -- Rabbi Shefa Gold and Rachmiel O'Regan, whose music and drumming I have long enjoyed; Rabbi Nadya Gross and Rabbi Victor Gross, two of my beloved rabbinic school teachers (I chuckled at Reb Nadya's story about telling her mother "this is the man I'm going to marry" -- family legend has it that my mother did the same thing after meeting my dad when they were teenagers at summer camp), Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan and Charles Kaplan. I enjoyed encountering familiar voices on the printed page, and gaining some new insights into the lives of my teachers and friends.

The editors describe this as a book for anyone who's interested in love relationships and what we can learn from them. I think that's probably true, though I suspect it might be somewhat inaccessible at times for non-Jewish readers. I also suspect that it might challenge non-religious readers; unsurprisingly, these are couples with a high level of religious observance! But for those who are interested in the details of romance and marriage and what makes relationships work, especially when religion is a potent ingredient in the mix, this book might be your cup of tea. Kol hakavod to the book's creators for bringing their vision to life!