Living a Double Life

I held a Torah in my arms last Shabbat morning for the first time in more than sixteen months. We have, of course, prayed together in person and also via zoom during these pandemic days, but that morning was my first time leading Shacharit with an in-person minyan so that we could take the Torah from the ark.
As I turned to face our congregation and chant Shema, I realized with a sudden clarity that the weight of the Torah was exactly the weight of my almost 10-month-old grandson Carmel.


I have been carrying him every day for one month from mid-June through mid-July as I cared for him in Tel Aviv while his Momma and Abba worked. For thirty days, I lived every day from 7:30 a.m. until Carmel’s bedtime as Bubbe.
I arrived home to just one week ago in time for Shabbat, Tisha B’Av, plans for High Holidays in full swing, committee meetings scheduled and classes ready to begin. I have certainly returned to my life as Rabbi.
Am I living a double life? Is it possible to live as Bubbe and Rabbi simultaneously? I am determined to do so and have decided to purposefully weave the two lives together, carrying lessons from both identities across boundaries.
When I am Bubbe, I am mindful, patient, and joyful. I live to serve, to make my tiny charge as comfortable and content as possible. With Carmel, I could spend an hour making a tower of blocks that he would immediately knock down. Over and over and over. And I was delighted.
Breakfast was an hour-long affair that consisted of his aiming his spoon toward his mouth and connecting instead with an eyebrow, his neck, and his knee. Throwing the spoon to the floor, he would reach in with his whole fist to put oatmeal in his mouth, and also all over his chest. Every oatmeal party ended with him sitting in the kitchen sink so I could wash him down. And I was delighted.

Walking Carmel in his stroller in the sticky heat of Tel Aviv often required my capacity to distract and entertain. I refused to be embarrassed as I walked down Ben Gurion Boulevard singing Baby Shark, pushing the stroller with my right hand and making tiny sharks with my left.


What can this possibly have in common with my rabbinate? It seems clear to me that mindfulness, patience and joy as well as a refusal to be embarrassed are all excellent qualities for a rabbi to cultivate.
But what aspects of my rabbinate find their way into being Bubbe? I often davened parts of Shacharit as we played together in the morning. Carmel seems to enjoy Baruch She-amar and Ashrei as much as Itsy Bitsy Spider. Although he is not yet 10 months old, I like to think that he associates me with an appreciation for the wonders of God’s world, whether the orange blossom tree on Mapu Street in front of his apartment or the sun reflecting over the Kinneret when we went away for Shabbat. Every grandparent can bless their children and grandchildren on Friday nights, but I like to think that the gentle force of Bubbe who is also Rabbi brings Shabbat to the table each week. It is important for me to think of these things as I’ll become Bubbe to a second grandchild (expected by my son and daughter-in-law in Maryland) before the end of the year.
Can my two identities be woven together? Between Shabbat afternoon and Sunday afternoon, I participated in naming three baby girls, the newest members of our congregation. I was definitely in my role as Rabbi and yet also feeling 100% Bubbe.

I believe that I am not required to live a double life. I can take the best of each role and apply it to the other. I am passionate about both of my roles – Bubbe and Rabbi, and I can be both at once. A good thing since I plan on being both for a nice long time to come!

Wishing all of us many roles, many lives, all rolled into one great adventure, Rabbi Bubbe Paula Mack Drill

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17 responses to “Living a Double Life”

  1. J. Scott (Yitzchak) says :

    Great article, Rabbi Drill. I am sure that many of us live more that just a double-life. For me, I live multiple lives, including spiritualism, philosophy, artist, and friendship.

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Thank you, Scott, for your thoughtful reply. I know that you weave those many lives very well to create the unique and wonderful person you are!

  2. nesor3 says :

    Dear Rabbi Paula,
    Your honesty and authenticity of who you are, is always so refreshing and inspiring.
    Welcome back to OJC & thank you for always sharing your experiences in this complex jewish world that we live in.
    Barbara Gillman Rosen

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Thank you so much, Barbara! I learn a lot about being a Bubbe from grandparents like you!

  3. Sally Winter says :

    Hi Rabbi Bubbe, you never cease to amaze me. I am sure you are great in all the roles you are in. Basha Tovah on your future grandchild. May you continue to enjoy all your roles. Miss you!! Sally😊

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Thanks, Sally, and good luck to you as you weave your double life into one: East Coast and West Coast woman!!

  4. Annette Diskin says :

    Mazel tov on bringing together so well all parts of life. You continue to teach even when recounting your own experience. Thank you so much for all your teaching. How I love learning with you.

  5. Lydia Katz says :

    Loved, loved, loved your article. My life as “meema” is so special to me that I do understand your emotions. So happy for you as you await your second bubbe blessing. Thank you for sharing with us. It kind of validates my split personality as mom, meema, and great meema. Carmel is so lucky to have you and OJC is so grateful that he hares you wth us.

    • Ruth Hess says :

      Such a beautiful commentary! I agree you can do both and still me our dedicated Rabbi.
      I remember full well when I was working as a teacher and then a principal, I still devoted time to my husband and children, all while getting my Master’s Degree after school hours. Diana said I was a Super Mom before it became popular.

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      You are an amazing mom, meema and great meema! I love to be part of your life.

  6. Ruth Hess says :

    Such a beautiful commentary! I agree you can do both and still me our dedicated Rabbi.
    I remember full well when I was working as a teacher and then a principal, I still devoted time to my husband and children, all while getting my Master’s Degree after school hours. Diana said I was a Super Mom before it became popular.

  7. Sheila Bunin says :

    Any role you take on will be passionate, and beautifully played, because you are a passionate, beautiful soul. You are a blessing in all the lives you touch.

  8. Mimi Rosenstock says :

    My dear Rabbi Drill, I just read & processed your post. To me, life is a puzzle,waiting for parts to be put together. It may take some of us a while to connect all the parts. Speaking for myself, as a new puzzle fan, one needs to concentrate . The work is hard but the result is gratifying. I hope this makes sense. Sent from my iPad

    >

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