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Joshua Dorsch: interpreter of Jewish scripture and law

Everyone always has second thoughts

Johsua Dorsch
Johsua Dorsch

Tifereth Israel Synagogue

  • Contact: 6660 Cowles Mountain Boulevard, San Diego 619-697-6001 www.tiferethisrael.com
  • Membership: 350
  • Rabbi: Joshua Dorsch  
  • Age: 34
  • Born: Philadelphia, PA
  • Formation: Columbia University/Jewish Theological Seminary, NY
  • Years Ordained: 7

San Diego Reader: Why did you become a rabbi?

Rabbi Joshua Dorsch: I had originally thought I’d become a lawyer. At the end of the day, the two professions have a lot in common. In a lot of ways, a rabbi is an interpreter of Jewish scripture and law, and I find ways for traditional and ancient Jewish texts to help guide our lives as a code and a rule of ethics and values to live our lives by…. Everyone always has second thoughts – what if my life had gone down this path instead of that path? One summer in my second year at rabbinical school, I was talking to a friend who was in a similar type of dilemma; he chose the law school route and I chose rabbinical school route. He was spending his summer in the basement of a law firm, shuffling different documents from law firm to law firm in New York City on a bike, getting coffee, making Xeroxes — being absolutely miserable. Meanwhile, I was spending my summer guiding teenagers through Israel, going on hikes in the desert, falling in love with Jewish tradition, history and the homeland. We were comparing experiences we were having that summer. That was a moment for me that I knew I headed in the right direction.

SDR: Why Judaism?

RD: It was always a part of my life…so in a lot of ways it was a natural step to more fully embrace Judaism. I remember as a kid having a conversation with my father around the time of my bar mitzvah, talking about Judaism and Jewish tradition. I said, “You know, I can’t wait until I have my bar mitzvah and I can decide not to keep kosher, keep the Jewish dietary laws.” He said, “I’m not so sure that’s how it works.” Then I said, “I can’t wait until I graduate from high school and college when I get to decide for myself to eat kosher.” He said, “It doesn’t quite work that way.” I said, “Oh, man!” But we know it is my choice to follow Jewish law — although, the word choice is relative. It’s my choice because I find it meaningful, fulfilling, and a beautiful way for me to connect with God and to have an awareness of God’s role in terms of every decision I make in my life.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

RD: There is literally no way for me to know for sure what is going to happen to me when I die. What I’m going to do is everything I can in this life to live the best life I possibly can, knowing that, wherever it is I wind up going, I gave it my best shot possible. I taught a whole class on the afterlife in Judaism. There is a plethora of possibilities for some type or version of heaven and hell, or some type or version of reincarnation. There is a world to come, I know that, but I have no idea what it looks like. I could tell you what all the rabbis have said it will look like, but all I hope to do is live a good life in this world, and, God willing, that will set me up for success in the world to come.

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Johsua Dorsch
Johsua Dorsch

Tifereth Israel Synagogue

  • Contact: 6660 Cowles Mountain Boulevard, San Diego 619-697-6001 www.tiferethisrael.com
  • Membership: 350
  • Rabbi: Joshua Dorsch  
  • Age: 34
  • Born: Philadelphia, PA
  • Formation: Columbia University/Jewish Theological Seminary, NY
  • Years Ordained: 7

San Diego Reader: Why did you become a rabbi?

Rabbi Joshua Dorsch: I had originally thought I’d become a lawyer. At the end of the day, the two professions have a lot in common. In a lot of ways, a rabbi is an interpreter of Jewish scripture and law, and I find ways for traditional and ancient Jewish texts to help guide our lives as a code and a rule of ethics and values to live our lives by…. Everyone always has second thoughts – what if my life had gone down this path instead of that path? One summer in my second year at rabbinical school, I was talking to a friend who was in a similar type of dilemma; he chose the law school route and I chose rabbinical school route. He was spending his summer in the basement of a law firm, shuffling different documents from law firm to law firm in New York City on a bike, getting coffee, making Xeroxes — being absolutely miserable. Meanwhile, I was spending my summer guiding teenagers through Israel, going on hikes in the desert, falling in love with Jewish tradition, history and the homeland. We were comparing experiences we were having that summer. That was a moment for me that I knew I headed in the right direction.

SDR: Why Judaism?

RD: It was always a part of my life…so in a lot of ways it was a natural step to more fully embrace Judaism. I remember as a kid having a conversation with my father around the time of my bar mitzvah, talking about Judaism and Jewish tradition. I said, “You know, I can’t wait until I have my bar mitzvah and I can decide not to keep kosher, keep the Jewish dietary laws.” He said, “I’m not so sure that’s how it works.” Then I said, “I can’t wait until I graduate from high school and college when I get to decide for myself to eat kosher.” He said, “It doesn’t quite work that way.” I said, “Oh, man!” But we know it is my choice to follow Jewish law — although, the word choice is relative. It’s my choice because I find it meaningful, fulfilling, and a beautiful way for me to connect with God and to have an awareness of God’s role in terms of every decision I make in my life.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

RD: There is literally no way for me to know for sure what is going to happen to me when I die. What I’m going to do is everything I can in this life to live the best life I possibly can, knowing that, wherever it is I wind up going, I gave it my best shot possible. I taught a whole class on the afterlife in Judaism. There is a plethora of possibilities for some type or version of heaven and hell, or some type or version of reincarnation. There is a world to come, I know that, but I have no idea what it looks like. I could tell you what all the rabbis have said it will look like, but all I hope to do is live a good life in this world, and, God willing, that will set me up for success in the world to come.

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Comments
1

The evangelical bible thumping TV preachers KNOW where they are going when they die and are the first to tell everyone that does not belong to their particular cult that they are going to hell. I appreciate that you and those of your faith are trying to live the best life thay can it must be depressing to not KNOW what happens after death. The basic business of religion is to control what you do, say, think and to separate you from your money under threat of going to hell. Stay well.

April 11, 2020

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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