For most of my adult life I’ve worked behind the scenes. I’ve done things with computers, written a lot of code (that you may have, without knowing, directly or indirectly used), and been able to do things like buy a home and start a family along the way. I’m thankful (not often enough) for all that.

I used to see people who could get up in front of a classroom, conference room or sanctuary—or down on the floor with kids for that matter—and think: They’re doing an important job; I wish I could do that, too, but I can’t. Some people are born with charisma, being a “people person,” and I wasn’t. My place was behind a computer screen.

The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera could sing, but thought no one would like him so acted in ways that that became a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s not the path I want to be on, though I might enjoy singing some Andrew Lloyd Weber music! Photo credit: Greg Willis via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

How I came to limit myself that way is hard to say. It might have been an experience early in my career, a relationship early in life, a random firing of neurons in my brain, or some combination of these.

But, eventually, with a lot of support, I volunteered to teach something. It actually didn’t go so well the first time, but I tried volunteering to teach other things. Sometimes in my professional life as a software engineer, but most often teaching other adults in Jewish education which is a field I had been in but left at the beginning of my career. And I loved it, and got positive feedback, and started building up my confidence. I took an amazing online graduation class in Jewish education. Through it all, I learned I don’t have to be like anyone else and it’s okay to fail sometimes.

And then I remembered: I liked to sing. I liked music. Some of what I’d been doing behind the scenes, behind the computer screen to make a difference in the world related to Jewish liturgy. But the really useful technical skill related to liturgy was not editing it on a computer, but using one’s voice to lead a prayer community. And I could do that; in fact, I used to do that. (Maybe it could even be a good synergy with my skills on the computer?)

I’m Finding My Voice. Where exactly this will go, I’m not sure yet. Thanks for joining me on the journey.

Rabbi David Paskin: A Rabbi’s Voice

Rabbi David Paskin, who I’ve heard of over the years although I don’t know him personally, is an experienced rabbi and musician who is now looking for a job, which may or may not have something to do with his activism at the AIPAC conference. Although his story is not exactly the same as mine, this piece about “a rabbi’s voice” resonates with some of the reasons I started this blog, and I appreciate him sharing his thoughts for us to learn from. Click through to read the whole thing.

As a rabbi, one of the most powerful tools I have is my voice. For reasons I, to this day, don’t fully understand, many people are willing to listen to me drone on and on in divrei Torah on Shabbat, bulletin articles, adult education classes, public forums and online. A rabbi’s voice is perhaps the most important tool that we have as clergy to inform, teach, persuade, convince, question and debate.

Source: Rabbi David Paskin