When I was little and a fairly good student at Afternoon School in Toronto, my parents impressed upon me two things.  First, it was important to learn about our Jewish traditions and to know as much as possible about how to live a Jewish life.   Second, I shouldn’t get too carried away with such things and, cholile, become a rabbi.

 This may seem a strange attitude for Jewish parents to express, but I am afraid to say, it was, as far as I could tell, a very common attitude in the immigrant Yiddish circles I grew up in.   Better I should be, in my parents accented English, “a docteh, a lawyeh, a dentnist, a yenGINyeh,” or at least, if all else failed, “a droggist.”

Well I came close on one score.  I married a lawyer and they got some indirect naches.  

But what is even more surprising to me nowadays, is that, over the past two years, a number of people have taken me to be a rabbi.

How could this be?  After all, I am not a rabbi and I never claim to be a rabbi.  Yet on several occasions that has been how some people have addressed me.  Come to think of it, everyone of them has been a Christian.

This is how I figure it.   To them, I sound like a rabbi.   I talk with confidence, quote scripture and often sound as if I know what I am talking about.   If you know something in our world or at least give the impression that you do, this apparently means you have a qualification, therefore I must be a rabbi.

Probably the other factor is context, the fact that I participate in interfaith dialogue, which seems to send the rabbi detection meter needle much higher.

I often wear a kipa to these exercises just so people can identify me as coming from the Jewish side.  I think, “otherwise, how will they be sure they have been talking to Jews?” But the kipa makes me look more religious - therefore more likely a rabbi.

I am interested in spirit and the spiritual, I want to learn more about how others understand scripture, god, etc.   This also gives me a rabbinic feel.  

Finally, my name is Rubin so if people are not paying attention closely, they might hear “rabbi” when I get introduced, especially in interfaith dialogues where they may be expecting to meet one.

All this is to say, that I have now been addressed as rabbi several times in the last few months but also, a few times in the past.  It’s not too bad unless there are real rabbis in the room and then it’s embarassing.  Rabbis Fine and Popkey laughed one night when the moderator of a panel welcomed “Rabbi Friedman” to the discussion but I couldn’t help feeling self-conscious about it even after I corrected it.

After all, I haven’t done much to complete my smicha.   Actually, nothing at all.

So here I am a great disappointment.  I’m not in the any of the professions my parents wanted me to pursue and a lot of people think I have the profession they wanted me to avoid. 

Here’s my plan to correct this.   In the world to come, I swear to tell the truth, if anyone there calls me rabbi because I am wearing a kipa.