The following is the script which, for reasons related to length, I cannot post into a YouTube video that may or may not one day be made available to the public.
For the meantime, enjoy CPE as CJLS.
Co-written by Jonah Rank and an anonymous ghost writer. Presented on Purim 2014 at JTS Purim Se’udah 5774.
EMCEE: For the first time ever, the Committee on Jewish Law & Standards of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly has elected among its members only rabbis who have been trained in the methods of clinical pastoral care. These new rabbinic legal authorities are specialists in opening up the heart and awakening the soul to the depths of humanity.
Today’s topic is eating hot dairy out: Pizza, pasta, and soul food.
RABBI SPRINGER: As the supervisor, I am here for you. This is your time. What is everyone sitting with?
RABBI NEVINS: Rabbi Springer, why is there an empty chair?
RABBI SPRINGER: Rabbi Nevins, According to Maimonides’ Laws of Inter-Personal Relations, every IPR group must sit in a circle. Today, we are processing our spiritual reactions to eating hot dairy out.
RABBI ROTH: It is asur! Food manufacturing and processing is so complicated in our times, you can’t know what is in anything unless there is proper supervision.
RABBI SPRINGER: Rabbi Roth, it sounds like you’re having a strong reaction to that.
RABBI ROTH: Of course I am! Kulei de’alema are chosheshin!
RABBI SPRINGER: Rabbi Barmash, how does it feel to hear Rabbi Roth say that?
RABBI BARMASH: It resonates with me. I too am deeply committed to the importance of halakhah and correct niqqud.
RABBI SPRINGER: Rabbi Nevins, how are you experiencing the interchange between Rabbi Roth and Rabbi Barmash?
RABBI NEVINS: I feel saddened and concerned. I’m wondering what it is that’s causing Rabbi Roth to feel such distress. I would like to join in empathy with his experience of struggle.
RABBI ROTH: Rabbi Nevins, this is about respect for the tradition of our ancestors! Minhag avoteinu beyadeinu!
RABBI SPRINGER: Rabbi Roth, how are you experiencing Rabbi Nevins’ concern?
RABBI ROTH: Well… for instance, non-kosher dyes are used in many foods. And a grill is often used for meat, dairy, and vegetables at the same time. There is also the matter of knives cutting a dvar harif. It is simply not possible to eat kosher in a non-kosher establishment.
RABBI BARMASH: Davar charif is interesting language to use in this context. It means a sharp matter. Are you experiencing this question as particularly sharp? Is there maybe some transference about a sharp person in your life?
RABBI NEVINS: Bringing in my own story, I found that as I learned chassidut, some of the sharpest and most harif questions strengthen our faith the most.
RABBI SPRINGER: That resonates with me as well. I remember this one time, I was on call in a hospital and I was asked to…<interrupt>
RABBI ROTH: <Interrupting>So, about my teshuva…<interrupted>
RABBI SPRINGER: <Interrupting> Rabbi Roth, we are here for each other. The whole point of the book of Shemot is that we and God become irrelevant if we do not suffer.
RABBI ROTH: First off, you should read Sarna’s commentary on Exodus if you want to know the whole point of Sefer Shemot. Second, I don’t care where the Torah comes from or if it has a point. We have to follow it anyway!
RABBI NEVINS: I’d like to share my personal story.
RABBI SPRINGER: Please do.
RABBI NEVINS: Several decades ago, when I was a new ordainee of the Seminary, I had a congregant come up to me and ask if me it was okay to eat davar charif in The Kitchenette. Who cares that they were asking about a place in Manhattan, when we were in Michigan? As we say, ani bamma’arav velibbi bammizrah–I am in the West, my heart is in the East. Typically, I would have said “No” to this question, but the difference between a good rav and a good posek is the rav can feel the pain of the Jew asking the question. In that moment, I became one with the entire people Israel, and I felt as if I was saying “Yes” to every question rising in the hearts of every Jewish neshamah.
RABBI ROTH: That’s asur! That is no way to pasken.
RABBI SPRINGER: Rabbi Roth, you’re making a lot of assumptions about Rabbi Nevins’ intentions. Why don’t you check in about what he meant?
RABBI ROTH: Rabbi Nevins, what in the world could you have meant?!
RABBI SPRINGER: Rabbi Roth, how does the silence feel?
RABBI ROTH: Asur. <pause>
RABBI SPRINGER: Rabbi Barmash, I’m experiencing your silence like my sister’s silence in childhood. Who is Rabbi Roth to you in this interaction? A fatherly figure? An uncle? Your annoying little brother? A police officer? A clever bank robber who mugged a dear friend who was a member of MENSA? A lousy bartender who once stepped on your foot? A cashier who wrote down your credit card number, and then tore up the piece of paper, and then glued it back together, and then called you a bad word? A clerk at misrad happanim? A teacher you once had as a young rabbinical student? <pause> Can you identify transference in this encounter? Who is Rabbi Roth to you?
RABBI BARMASH: <pause> Um… <slowly> None of the above.
RABBI SPRINGER: Then who?
RABBI BARMASH: <pause> Pass.
RABBI NEVINS: I feel reluctant to take up space with this point. But, as deeply as I feel what I said before, it actually weakens my heart to see a Jew make the choice of eating at a non-kosher restaurant when they could easily hop on a subway to go to the kosher restaurant only 35 blocks away–or just hop on a train to go to the kosher restaurant 35 States away. But I’m present to the fact that not everyone is in a place to take that step <pause> even though most American Jews do live on the Upper West Side. <pause> I think we should vote now.
RABBI SPRINGER: Rabbi Nevins, I appreciate your initiative, but, I am the chair of the Committee on Jewish Law & Standards. <pause> I think we should vote now. <pause> All those in favor of the Nevins teshuvah, say “Aye.” <watch beeps immediately> We’re at the time boundary. I really appreciate and am present to everyone’s presence through the process of this processing process.