The answer: “I have no idea.”
The question? The one that virtually everyone asks within 60 seconds of learning that I’m studying to be a rabbi: “How long will that take you?”
I’m always a little flummoxed when they ask. I expect questions such as, “Why do you want to be a rabbi?” and “What will you do when you graduate?” and “Do you have to move to Israel for a year?”
(The answers: 1. I don’t have a choice; I simply must. 2. I’m not sure, but it would be great to be a congregational rabbi. 3. No.)
But why ask how long it will take? Because I’m (relatively speaking) old. At 54, people don’t expect a person to embark on a new career, and certainly not on a course of study that will take years to complete.
By the way, it’s taken me nearly two years to figure this out. Which must mean that I’m a slow learner, because I’ve been asked the question countless times. Which also might mean that it’s going to take me a really long time before I’m ordained. Or not. Maybe it means that I just don’t understand the question.
In my opinion, age is irrelevant. So what if I won’t have a 40 year career? Is that worth missing the chance to have a 5 or 10 or 15 year career?
Many years ago I read an article about a 63-year-old woman who had just graduated from medical school. I thought then (and still today) that was fantastic.
When I began to consider rabbinical school seriously, I protested to a friend that I’d be 60 years old when I finished. Her response was simple and obvious. She pointed out that I’ll be 60 anyway – why not be a rabbi too?
My new answer to the question? “I don’t know, and I don’t care. I’m just happy to be alive and doing what I love.”