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    Rabbinic burnout – B’ha’alot’cha

    rabbisEvery professional, and certainly every rabbi, will feel for Moses when the great leader complains to God in this week’s reading that he is too tired and burnt-out to continue with his task (Num. 11:14-17). God’s answer to Moses is to select and train a group of assistants so that the work can be shared.

    In an ideal situation any professional practice, including a rabbinic incumbency, can be improved if there is a team of trusted colleagues to share the responsibility.

    It doesn’t always work; it isn’t always practicable; it is sometimes simply unaffordable. But whether or not a team can be assembled, the leader has to learn how to plan his day and not get too bogged down in any one aspect of the task.

    If the leader finds he has no time to plan, to think, to relax – even to pray – he is not doing himself any favour.

    It is interesting to reflect that in other faiths, clergy sometimes drop out because they have lost their faith. In Judaism, very few rabbis find they no longer believe, and in orthodoxy very few dropout because they can no longer keep the mitzvot – but what does produce a constant problem is fatigue and burn-out.

    The wise congregation will notice if their rabbi is showing signs of tiredness and they can tactfully give him the time and wherewithal to take a period of leave.

    Unfortunately some congregations are too selfish and insensitive to help their rabbi, and in the end it is they who suffer.

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