A few weeks ago we went to a Conservative shul I'll call Temple Burning Bush, because I got the impression I could have spontaneously burst into flames and run screaming through the sanctuary and the 15-odd congregants wouldn't have blinked. The cantor was too deep and didn't sing so much as intone- loudly.
So the cantor is doing his thing (unassisted by the rabbi, I notice), and on the other side of the bimah there are two older gentlemen. One seems to very obviously be the rabbi- glasses, white beard, very Soloveitchik-looking. Behind him, in one of the "VIP seats" is some random guy that I assume is the synagogue President. The whole time the cantor is cantoring, these two guys won't stop whispering to each other. Shiska Girlfriend and I keep looking at each other. Exactly what issue could the Men's Club be having that is so urgent that they can't either keep quiet during the service or, god forbid, actually join in?
Cantor finishes, rabbi gives his drash. A damn good drash, actually. Even includes a joke about a rabbi, cantor, and synagogue president stranded on a desert island. (A different version is here. This rabbi's version was much hipper. It involved cannibals.) This further's my suspicion that the chatterbox is the President.
End of drash, end of service. The Rabbi comes up to us to introduce himself. Before he reaches us, the President shakes my hand.
"Good to see you again!"
"Yes, great to see you back here. I've forgotten your names, though."
Me: "Um... we've never been here before."
Nothing fazes this guy. In his best used car salesman voice, he says, "Well there are two people that look just like you and have been here before!"
Yeah. No thanks, we don't want any.
We excuse ourselves from annoying President-man and introduce ourselves to the Rabbi- who reveals that, he, in fact, is a visitor! A rabbi, to be sure, but not from this shul. The guy who just tried to pretend he knows us, it turns out, is the rabbi.
Slightly surprised, I compliment the other rabbi on his drash. He grins. "Actually, I didn't even know I was speaking tonight." Apparently the back and forth on the bimah was Rabbi 1 opting out of drash duty. Nice.
This reminded me of a story circulating around my college the first few weeks of school- a philosophy professor gave a brilliant lecture about Plato, and a student came up to him afterwards at the podium to ask him if he could have a copy of his notes. The professor shrugged. "I don't really have notes, he says."
The student looks down at the lectern and sees a small piece of paper. It says, "Talk About Plato."
Needless to say, Temple Burning Bush was a bust. The search continues.