I've got a few choices here in town of different styles and flavors of rabbis and congregations. How do I choose? Is there a simple test to determine who is fit to be my rabbi?

--Choosing Jew


Dear Choosing,

Here are two litmus tests you can administer to any rabbi. You'll need a stopwatch:

Test #1:

  • Ask the rabbi, "Rabbi, do you believe in G‑d?"
  • Start the stopwatch.
  • When you hear the word, "yes", stop the watch and record the time.

Test #2:

  • Ask the rabbi, "Okay, let's say they tie you to a post on a pile of kerosene-soaked wood and these guys in black hoods standing around with torches who look like they've done this before tell you, "Just say that this Judaism stuff is a bunch of nonsense and we'll let you go." Your answer is...?
  • Start the stopwatch.
  • When you hear the words Shma Yisrael... ("Hear O Israel, G‑d is our G‑d, G‑d is one") or some other convincing show of absolute commitment, stop the watch and record the time.


  • 0-2 seconds: That's why we are still here today.
  • 3-10 seconds: Okay, maybe he was just shocked by the question.
  • 11 seconds to never: If he doesn't really believe in it, why should we?

Sources: Test #1 is the invention of Dr. Judah Landes, a psychologist who used it to determine his rabbi when he was a senior researcher at Stanford. Test #2 was also used many times, but for less honorable purposes and not by psychologists.

Send in your results!