It’s that time of year again…time to think about where you are going to attend High Holy Day Services.
Maybe you are a member of a synagogue or havurah and you don’t need to worry about this. You have a ticket in your hot little hand because you paid your dues this year.
For those “poor” Jewish souls, however, who don’t have or can’t afford a member ship to a synagogue, when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – the most important holidays of the year (with the exception of Shabbat) – come around each year, the Jewish community leaves them out in the cold with nowhere to pray. And each year, I am amazed, appalled and angered by this fact.
A Christian on Christmas or Easter never lacks for a seat in a church. And they don’t need to pay dues to attend services ever. They can put a penny (or nothing) in the basket when it’s passed around, and they will still be welcomed with open arms and allowed to pray in the sanctuary even on their holiest of days.
Pay or don’t pray. That’s the Jewish motto on the High Holy Days.
Not the rest of the year. Attend Shabbat services or any minor holiday free of charge. That’s fine. But on those large important holidays – the two that make up what we know as the High Holy Days or High Holidays – you can only come in the doors of the sanctuary with a ticket.
Become a member. Become a friend of the synagogue and then buy tickets. Buy guest tickets. But buy a ticket.
Then you can pray, repent, be inscribed for another year of life.
Does this seem backwards to anyone but me? Shouldn’t we be letting in the wandering Jews who want to pray on the High Holy Days – the ones who don’t come the rest of the year – in the hopes of getting them to come back on Shabbat? Shouldn’t we be helping them do t’shuvah, return to Judaism and to God?
Instead, we turn them away. “Come back on a less important holiday,” we say.
Of course, Shabbat happens to be important – the most important holiday, even if most Jews don’t treat it that way.
For the ordinary wandering Jews wanting to be accepted back into the fold and finding the door closed, maybe it’s just easier to walk down the street to a church. There Jews can just accept Jesus (a fellow Jew), be declared “saved” and know they will go to heaven. And they can do this on any day of the week free of charge.
At this time of year I think about the stories I’ve heard about poor Jews brining in strangers to share their meager Shabbat dinner, only to discover that their guest was Elijah. The rabbis and administrators at temples say High Holy Day tickets are necessary because there just aren’t enough seats for everyone. What if Elijah was turned away from attending Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur services for lack of a ticket? What if allowing in that one person for free who wants to repent on Yom Kippur brought about the World to Come?