A few years ago, in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the comedian Larry David bought scalpers’ tickets to his congregation’s High Holy Day services, and was kicked out when his subterfuge was discovered. It was extremely funny but only because of the biting truth behind the gag.
If you’re not aware, most Jewish temples require worshipers to purchase tickets for services during the High Holidays. In addition, most temples charge a substantial fee when a family joins their congregation.
Even worse, many synagogues do not sell tickets just for the holidays. They sell memberships, which include holiday tickets. What is a person to do if he or she does not want to join a synagogue, but wants to attend holiday services?
I find these requirements to be dreadful, shameful, and sacrilegious, and not surprisingly, I have yet to find a single person, Jewish or otherwise, who disagrees with me. Even Larry David finds these customs to be ridiculous, at least according to the opinions expressed on his show.
The argument has been made that the High Holidays elicit such a large turnout that tickets are required in order to guarantee a seat. Of course, this idea is ludicrous. First off, since when has any religious institution complained about having too many worshipers? And under this system, only those who can afford the tickets have access to the precious few seats available.
Sorry you tired, huddled masses yearning for the Lord on Passover. Space is limited and scarcity has always provided a means to profit. This is capitalism at work, damn it!
Secondly, if there was a genuine concern over the number of worshipers in attendance, for reasons of fire codes or structural limitations, reservations could be taken without requiring a monetary contribution.
While the practice of selling tickets was shocking to me when I was first told about it, what I find even more shocking it the apathy, indifference and unwillingness to affect change. I have yet to meet any Jewish person who disagrees with my opinion or these suggestions. In fact, most vehemently despise the purchasing these tickets and the paying for membership. Yet despite these strenuous objections, they continue to shell out the money year after year after year.
When I ask if anyone has ever attempted to buck the system, submit of formal complaint, or endeavor to institute change, the answer is always a resounding no.
I find this surprising, especially considering that the Jewish faith admirably encourages its members to question their faith when appropriate. If there is so much discontent over the need for tickets in order to attend a Passover or Rosh Hashanah service, why not refuse to pay? Boycott the service. Organize a petition drive. Rise up and be heard.
Either that or embrace the custom fully. Install automated ticketing machines in each temple, capable of accepting debit or credit cards. Sell popcorn and soda. Show previews for upcoming holidays. It sounds crazy, I know, but so does selling tickets to holiday services or charging membership fees as if temple is some kind of exclusive country club rather than a place of humble worship for anyone who wishes to attend.
Does anyone honestly believe that the Lord approves of charging worshipers on to attend his service in the same way that the NFL charges fans to watch their games?
This kind of pay-to-pray system is not limited to the Jewish faith. I have a friend who was not permitted to become a godfather to his friend’s newborn son until he resumed his monthly contributions to the church that he almost never attended.
I may not belong to any church or formal religion, but when you are ready to rise up and contest these shameful practice, let me know. Heathen or not, I’ll join, if only to help put an end to this nonsense.