Maybe it is all in the name.

When I think of tickets, I think entertainment. Broadway shows like Hamilton and Fiddler on the Roof. Sporting events like the Red Sox games at Fenway, and of course Bill Russell’s Celtics at the old Boston Garden. And James Taylor concerts wherever he plays (my wife’s a big fan) within 3 hours driving distance. And of course for movies.

Oh, and the speeding ticket I got last January.

Should we be thinking of High Holy Day tickets like we do games, concerts, plays, movies and moving violations?

Of course in the eyes of the IRS, High Holy Days tickets are quite different from those bought for a James Taylor concert. You receive intangible religious benefits for your High Holy Day tickets.

Although one might make the case that you get a similar benefit from being at Hamilton, at a James Taylor concert, or watching Matt Harvey – or any pitcher – throw a no-hitter.

In his heart, the IRS examiner conducting your audit might agree with you. But the law is the law.

Maybe we do a disservice to High Holy Day worship by having “Tickets”. It’s funny, the first definition in my “Word” dictionary for “Ticket” is that it is a “pass for entertainment”.

Maybe people want to come to High Holy Day Worship and be entertained. Listen to the Cantor and Choir sing and listen to the rabbi give a sermon. Maybe the words and message might excite them and touch their souls.

Maybe High Holy Day worship is entertainment for people. That is what they know and have come to expect from the High Holy Days. Until they learn more about the meaning and power of prayer and how to pray.

If we want people to think about the High Holy Days differently, we need to stop using the word “tickets”. When I started writing today, I thought of the word “Spiritual Pass”. The definition I referred to above for tickets using “pass” might not be the best alternative. I found additional synonyms like badge and tag that might convey a different meaning.

Stop mentioning tickets anymore in High Holy Day materials. Just send them nametags. You may already have nametags for congregants that are stored in a central location for people to pick up. Spend the money that you would spend on printing tickets and send High Holy Day nametags so everyone who comes, congregants and guests, has the same one.

Today’s Blog is not really about cost and free tickets. Check out my blogs from last year and from 2013 (lots of comments on this one) on this subject. I still believe that High Holy Day worship should be as open to the community as possible with minimal barriers for participation.

Today’s Blog is more about what “tickets” for the High Holy Days conveys to people. What doe people expect from this special yellow (or another color) card? And what should we expect of congregants?

Let me know what you think.

4 Comments on “Tickets

  1. We have been “ticketless” more a number of years now and see this as part of the covenant of membership- inviting people to contribute offerings of their own heart if they are available and stressing experience and relationship as primary. This has been a financially fruitful, Jewish-values based approach.

    I also wrote about the idea of Tishrei Membership for the Jewish month of the chagim as a way of cultivating the value of belonging, not consumer purchasing of goods and services. We employed this approach successfully during my years as a founder and president of a havurah in Toronto in the 1980s and I wrote about this in my book “Offerings of the Heart: Money and Values in faith Community” published in 2005-

    • Shawn,

      As always, I greatly appreciate your comments.

      One question I have though is whether all are welcome from the community beyond congregants and since you don’t have the identifier of a ticket, do you have some sort of check in or greeter?

      Thanks again.



  2. All are welcome from community (who we expect to have or are completing their self-assessed dues), members have their name tags and there are greeters and check-in to get the info of those who are not members for follow-up. Envelopes are in Machzorim for those to contribute as they feel moved who are not members, also on-line. It is worth noting that contributions are vital as we move into a school theatre hall for HH since our own sanctuary seats about 400 maximum and this off-sets costs. I hope this helps!

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