joined a new rabbis' internet forum the other day. it is inter-denominational, as it were. one of the posts opened up a can of worms in my breast ... it presented a number of situations, and asked what one's priorities would be - regarding self/family versus the temple.
a story (of which each rabbi has her/his own version):
the phone goes at 2 am. my mother picks up, and hands it over to my father (pre-cordless era). someone in the hospital is dying, and they need a rabbi - will he come? of course! 'is it a member?' my mother asks. 'no.' says my father. 'you are an idiot.' says my mother and off my father goes. he does not drive, and there is no public transport at that hour, so he takes a taxi. sadly, he is too late, and arrives to find the family in the midst of funeral arrangements. it becomes clear from the discussion that these are orthodox jews, and my father asks if they are members of a synagogue. 'of course!' comes the reply. 'may i ask why you did not call your rabbi?' says my father. 'we wouldn't dream of waking him up in the middle of the night!' he asks how they found his number, and they said it was listed in the yellow pages (there was a time when my father was, indeed, listed in the yellow pages. you could find his name under 'places of worship'. NOT going there ...). he asks if they would be kind enough to call a taxi for him. they tell him to ask the nurse. he arrives home and recounts the tale to my mother, who just looks at him and says, 'you are an idiot'.
and that, in microcosm, is the model so many of us have inherited.
as r. dreyfus always says, we are elected to serve. when, though, did it become servitude? and it is worse when you are single, i think, for you have no children to take to the dentist, or partner's business dinner to attend. since i have little family, and most of them are so far away, the issue has surfaced rarely for me. i still hope to find my own family - i wonder what may happen then?