The Rabbi Who Couldn’t Read Hebrew

Here’s an interesting story:

Raphael: The problem I want to bring up revolves around being less skilled than I would like to be in something that is integral to my profession and I feel a great deal of shame and judgement about it. So this shame has tended in the past to prevent me from doing anything about it.

I am a rabbi and I am not literate in Hebrew and one is expected to be able to access texts in Hebrew and Aramaic in its many variations. I didn’t have much of a religious background in my family as I grew up. I managed to get through rabbinical school but, unlike most of the people there, I had not had the kind of education as a child that would lead to the level of work that is required of you in a rabbinical school, so I was behind from the onset. I did manage to do enough to complete the course work. But enough to complete the course work and feeling competent are two different things. And also if I started at this point I wouldn’t even be qualified to begin…

David: Just before you go any further, did you say that you didn’t have the normal background that most others might have had going into a rabbinical school and yet you managed OK?

Raphael: I managed. It was painful and difficult.

David: So that sounds like a good thing that you managed without that background.

Raphael: Yes, absolutely that’s a good thing that I succeeded at what I did. That’s an incredible accomplishment and when I graduated I felt wonderful. However, it continues to be that what I never learned I still haven’t learned and it continues to be a problem.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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