High Holidays: Short Insights



These short insights, vignettes, anecdotes and stories contain bits of inspirational material to be interspersed among the long prayers of the High Holidays in order to engage, stimulate and inspire the audience. Some are appropriate for both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. When they are holiday-specific, you will find (RH) or (YK) in the title, and if they are applicable to both, you will find (RH/YK).


Knowing Your Destination (RH) – What a prisoner in a Siberian gulag learned from a tightrope walker about keeping the end-goal in mind.

Cosmic Nervous System (RH) – Rosh Hashana ushers in the Hebrew month of Tishrei with all its many holidays, which are the main energy centers – the cosmic nervous system – controlling the entire year.

Blind Spots (RH) – Why do we need an outside force – a shofar – to wake us up on Rosh Hashana? Why can we not rely on our own cries and prayers?

The Sounds of the Shofar (RH) – An explanation of the psycho-spiritual meaning behind the three sounds of the shofar.

Shofar in Spain (RH) – Chief Rabbi Metzger’s story of presenting a shofar to the King of Spain and telling him of a Shofar Concerto that took place during the Inquisition.

Shofar in Auschwitz (RH) – A moving story of how one rabbi risked his life to sound the shofar on Rosh Hashana in the death block of Auschwitz.

Coronation Night (RH) – Rabbi Soloveitchik’s recollection of the most inspirational Rosh Hashana message he ever heard.

A Marriage Made in Heaven (RH) – God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” And He created a helpmate against him. Was God fond of oxymorons or did He have Himself in mind?

Lord of the Ants (RH) – God wants to be our sovereign only if we so choose.

Finding the Way Together (RH) – Excellent introduction for sharing. Do we know where we are running to? Or are we lost?

Your People (RH/YK) – How could a scared Holocaust survivor, who did not know whom he could to trust in Eastern Europe after the war, recognize a fellow Jew? By a secret codeword.

Tale of Two Lambs (RH/YK) – What single Torah verse captures the essence of Judaism. Clue: You’ll never guess.

When God is a Mentch (RH/YK) – No mentch would testify against his kin; how could God be any different.

Boring Prayers (RH/YK) – Jokes are told about how boring High Holiday prayers are. But they don’t need to be if we rediscover the spontaneity of prayer and find purpose in the structure.

Yusta, the Tailor (RH/YK) – The High Holidays are a time to reflect on whether our life’s successes and pressures have robbed us of our humanness and realness.

Blessing the Children (YK) – How the Klausenberger Rebbe, who lost eleven children in the Holocaust, blessed orphaned girls before the start of Yom Kippur 1945.

The Lost Child (YK) – A moving story about a Russian soldier who carried his parents’ loving message without knowing what it was.

Your Inner Child (YK) – Even the most cynical person has a pure side. Yom Kippur teaches us the most vital message: Never give up on your self. Despite life’s difficulties – your inner child always remains intact.

Returning to Your Essence (YK) – On Yom Kippur we are assured that teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah reverse the evil decree. A brief explanation of the meaning of teshuvah.

Sensitivity in Action (YK) – On Yom Kippur we are assured that teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah reverse the evil decree. A brief explanation of the meaning of tzedakah.

Day of Unlimited Possibilities (YK) – A Kabbalistic insight into the power of oneness that descends on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur.

Yizkor after the Holocaust (YK) – “Our loved ones did not go to their graves in white. Let’s be like them!” cried the Klausenberger Rebbe as he ripped off his white kittel.

The Ten Martyrs (YK) – A moving explanation of the section of Yom Kippur liturgy which describes the torture of ten sages.

The Power of Neilah (YK) – How one Yom Kippur stopped Franz Rosenzweig, an influential Jewish theologian and philosopher in Germany, from converting to Christianity.

GPS: God’s Positioning System (YK) – Humorous analogy between the GPS and the Torah.


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