Wisdom For The Day: Don’t Steal On Yom Kippur [UPDATED]

I mentioned at one point that I was giving a sermon over High Holidays. To be more specific, it’s for Yom Kippur, which is coming up this week. I should mention that this congregation is lay-led and does not have a Rabbi, making the fact that I am giving one slightly less odd. Still, one might wonder why the congregation asked me to give the Yom Kippur sermon, as I am not scholarly or learning-driven when it comes to Judaism.

Answer: They didn’t.

My congregation has known me long enough to know that Husband is the smart one in our marriage. The High Holiday planning committee asked Husband to give the sermon for Yom Kippur.

This did not please me. Giving the sermon is an honor. I did not feel a sense of pride that my husband was offered an honor, but rather, an intense feeling of jealousy that I was not offered one. I thought I deserved an honor more because I do more thankless congregational board work (again, Husband is the smart one in this marriage). I actually enjoy public speaking and being at the center of attention. And I even had an excellent opening for a Yom Kippur sermon. I didn’t have a middle or ending yet, but the opening was fantastic! Husband didn’t even have an idea (though he likely would have come up with one eventually)! Also, Husband did not care one way or the other about giving a sermon.

So I stole the sermon honor. Told the High Holidays planning committee I was giving the sermon instead.

Just like Carmen Sandiego, except instead of stealing priceless world landmarks, I stole something of absolutely no material value. By the way, if you’re too young to know anything about Carmen Sandiego, keep it to yourself. I was so obsessed with the game show.
“CARMEN SANDIEGO HAS STOLEN THE IONOSPHERE” by tr.robinson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

How did that work out? Well, I have:

  • An amazing sermon opening
  • A not completely terrible ending
  • A couple of good lines that don’t connect to each other at all
  • A terrible middle filled with condescending toxic positivity, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid
  • No idea how to fix this
  • Less than 2 days before Yom Kippur
  • A great deal of regret

Now, I am no stranger to public humiliation. But I prefer my public humiliation when everyone, myself included, is drunk. Drinking is not allowed on Yom Kippur. Drinking is like, the exact opposite of what one is supposed to do on Yom Kippur.




My sermon rocked!! I totally killed it!! The congregation loved it. Also, my delivery was fantastic!

Husband [who was totally fine with me taking the sermon honor in the first place because he didn’t care about it, didn’t have a good idea for the sermon, and knew that I really wanted it (I admit I used the language of “stealing” purely for a Clickbait title and Carmen Sandiego reference)] agreed it was absolutely the right call for me to give this sermon.

This was the only aspect of Yom Kippur that went well. Pretty much everything else about Yom Kippur, including the preparation before my sermon, was a complete clusterfuck.

Side note: Doesn’t “The Yom Kippur Clusterfuck” sound like a great title for something? I’m not entirely sure what. I mean, you can’t exactly make it the title of a children’s book, and it doesn’t have quite the right ring for a musical. Hmm, I may actually have to write a piece of fiction to go with this killer title….


  1. Oh gosh I remember eating my TV dinner watching Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. I think it was reruns though.

    Anyways, don’t overthink your sermon, just be yourself being you giving a sermon on Yom Kippur and I know it’ll be wonderful and insightful!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oops! I’m sorry it ended that way 🙈 But I’m glad you still got to do it. I can sooo relate to where you said “toxic positivity, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid.” In extempore speeches, I tend to say things I never would have wanted to say and end up embarrassing myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This did not please me. Giving the sermon is an honor. I did not feel a sense of pride that my husband was offered an honor, but rather, an intense feeling of jealousy that I was not offered one.

    You definitely seem to make very little attempt to paint yourself in a flattering light, JYP.

    Good luck with the sermon!


    P.S. Does husband know the sermon was meant to be his?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I won’t say “You’ll be fine,” because that’s more condescending toxic positivity. But I do think you’ll find a way through. You’re an engaging writer. Do you feel comfortable being as self-aware in person as here? Or is that too scary in Real Life? (I completely understand if it is too scary, it would be too scary for me too.)

    I’ve never given a sermon as such, although I’ve given a few fifteen minute drashas, which I guess are similar, if less moralistic. I haven’t done one for years though.

    I also have the problem of sometimes saying things that I don’t 100% agree with in my weekly divrei Torah, not least because I’m juggling a very wide audience with those (from non-frum to somewhat Haredi), and because I’m not willing to speak about my less religiously-successful side there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Appreciate your thoughts from experience! “Sermon” is a mistranslation – it’s really a 15 min or less drash (I didn’t want to have to figure out how to translate “drash” for a blog post.

      It’s less “scary” and more that I don’t want to spend a YK Drash to the congregation talking about myself I am using some humor for example, but it’s not the self-deprecating sort that I use on my blog.

      If I have ever made you feel as though you must say something in your weekly Dvar that you don’t agree with by virtue of being on the distribution, I apologize and ask your forgiveness.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, but you haven’t made me say anything I don’t fully agree with. It’s generally the other way, that I worry about saying something that would be considered not frum enough. I don’t think I’ve ever said anything I massively don’t believe in, but sometimes I’ve simplified things that I think are more complicated.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. If you wanted to spice up the middle, you could add in something about anal sex, although I’m guessing the congregation would probably prefer the toxic positivity.

    I never saw the Carmen Sandiago game show, but I did play the computer game.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know what I would do, which is to channel John Wayne, look gruff, and start out with, “Well, I’m not good at making fancy speeches and all, and I figure if you’re like me, that’s not why you came here today.” That puts everybody on the defensive, and from there on, you just coast to the end. You might practice the John Wayne gait for when you walk off–kind of scissor your legs close in, lean forward like you’re falling, and swing your arms.
    You’re welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “The YKC” title does have a certain ring to it, a sort of tension in addition to its catchy alliteration, like Christmas Mass Mayhem, which, I guess you’d have to say, would lend itself much more readily to a musical.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If husband is the smart one in your marriage, he must be brilliant because your writing demonstrates how smart you are. You are highly reflective and articulate in ways that make your narrative all of interesting, informative and entertaining. So, you feel personally messed up and confused about WTF is going on at times. Well, that is the story of all of us. Sure some more than others, but few have the smarts to tell it so well. I am glad your Yom Kippur sermon was fine on the day. Maybe you need the pain to get there.

    BTW, I think there is some genuine happy positivity out there. I have decided to actively seek out small doses in my daily life because I need an alternative to the global bad shit saturation that seems to be going on and over which I have no influence. I am an atheist, so I don’t have any religious panacea in my life. I look to find worthhwhileness in the real world.

    I don’t really think it matters if everything as we know it ends tomorrow, as long as I can find things of interest and small wonders to enjoy today. I am finding them by consciously observing and thinking about what I discover. Possibly, you are undertaking a similar process in the life you are living.

    I guess it is a bit of the living in the moment cliche. It is not about the future. I expect there will always be some sort of future for somethings somewhere. I hope it is humankind, but it definitely doesn’t have to be. So many species have ceased to exist before us and so many more are going now, during our period of dominance. The best I can do is be saddened by that fact and still try to find a way to value existence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. We do have our individual strengths and talents. The actual lead-up to the sermon, full of major last-minute revisions, was very stressful and not much fun at all – I am very glad though that it reads as amusing and entertaining. I did get an adrenaline rush while delivering the speech and honestly, really enjoyed it.

      I don’t think all forms of positivity are toxic! I didn’t mean to suggest that, my bad if I left you with that impression. I do think there are many forms of gratitude and positivity that are positive! In my particular case and circumstance, I was really trying to avoid the preachy, patronizing, condescending tone that is very easy to fall into during a High Holiday sermon, and it’s that tone can make positivity go from inspiring to toxic. My earlier drafts had this preachy tone. Fortunately, I managed to edit it out of the final version.

      I’m happy to hear you’ve been finding doses of positivity in your day to day life! That is an excellent goal to strive for!


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