I am Multitudes
You are not your title
At my gym, everyone gets a nickname. It’s part of the culture. When I first walked in, as a proud bestower of nicknames, I eagerly anticipated being given my own. Then, when they found out my profession, I was coined “Rabbi,” and boy, that was deflating! I’m Rabbi everywhere else, let me get one of those cool nicknames I would say.
Now, after a few years at the gym, people seem to genuinely get a kick out of a clergy person working out hard next to them and maybe dropping a few curse words here and there. Even I have come to appreciate it in that setting I think, in part, due to the irony of it. My work is seen so often in the spiritual realm and here I am being seen in a very physical space. (More on that in another post because I disagree strongly!)
I worked hard for my title. I work hard as a Rabbi. But it is not a title I need to wear everywhere I go. In fact, even in the synagogue setting itself, I often find myself saying, “you can just call me Adir.” More often than not, I experience discomfort at using the title. Maybe there’s a little bit of impostor syndrome happening. I also see a lot of faith leaders who are their title. I don’t want to become that.
As I have been processing this discomfort as it has manifested uniquely throughout my career, I noticed that much of it stems from the idea that being a Rabbi is one of many hats that I wear, and it most certainly does not define me. I am a son. I am a brother. I am a husband. I am an uncle. I am a St. Louisian. I am an athlete. I am a friend. I am a prayer leader. I am a singer. I am a cook. I am also contradictions. I am happy and I am sad. I am calm and I am angry. I am downtrodden and I am elevated. I am glasses half full and empty.
In her book, “Emergent Strategy,” Adrienne Maree Brown writes
“the more I accept this, the more I can share my contradictory truths with those who can support me and help me move toward my best self. I am not turning against myself. I am multitudes. The tide to be turned is a process of inner alignment, those who wish to support me need to be vulnerable with that inner contradiction.”1
I am multitudes. That Whitman-esque phrase is a new mantra for me. So often people will say in response to my struggles as a Rabbi, “but you’re so good at it.” In my head, I say, yes, and I am so good at many other things as well. Being “good” at something does not translate to it being the purest essence of who you are. When I can recognize that contradiction, I move more toward that integration. We are all many things.
In the portion the Jewish people are reading this week, called Naso, we span chapters 6-7 of Numbers. At the end, we read about the consecration of the Tabernacle where each tribe is represented by their Chieftain and their respective gifts are described. Each gift though is exactly the same, yet they are all listed. One potential reason why is that each Chieftain had a unique story that got them there. Although their gifts may have been the same, the things that made them who they were varied.
That is a lesson that is speaking to me this week. Not one of us is simply one thing. We are multitudes. The more we can recognize that in others, the more we may be able to see that in ourselves.
Sending wishes for a peaceful Shabbat and a joyous weekend for all,