Looks like I might have to speak again this Rosh Hashanah. Well, to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, “Start with the desired audience experience and work backward.” So I conjured up a fantasy of a ranting member of my target audience banging out an e‑mail to advise me.

I can’t describe how degraded and insulted my own fantasy made me feel. I mean, I’ve already broken one of his demands in this little intro!

So what do you think? Intolerable chutzpah? Or right on target?

Dear Rabbi,

You probably don’t know me by name, or face, or seat number,I mean, it’s cool to see the crowd all decked out. But there are other venues for that. since I generally turn up only for High Holidays and the occasional bar mitzvah. To tell you the truth, I’m still mulling over if I should show up this Rosh Hashanah.

I mean, it’s cool to see the crowd all decked out. But there are other venues for that. And your jokes are usually not bad—but again, I have better places where world-class comedians have you in fits of laughter.

So I figured I would shoot you a few tips, just suggestions mind you, of things you might say in your sermon that might interest me—if I do actually come. Actually, most of the list ended up as what doesn’t interest me.

Hey, take it or leave it. It’s just me, some anonymous stereotypical Jew.

1. Please stop ripping apart the world I live in.

If Rosh Hashanah is, like you say, aIf we’re getting judged, why do our rabbis have to play the prosecution? judgment day for the entire world, why do our rabbis have to play the prosecution? Do you really think people pay for membership in your synagogue so you can condemn them, along with the whole rest of the world?

So here’s my advice: Do you know how much further you could get if you acted as our defense attorney instead? I mean, who do you think we would like more, the guy who sees every big and little thing that’s wrong with us, or the guy who finds all the good in us—even the good we ourselves never realized we had? What if you showed us that you actually love us, and all your fellow Jews, and even all of humanity?

Besides, I really don’t believe the world is getting worse every day. If it is, it’s your generation’s fault, not my own. I’m looking forward to great things. We’ve almost beat starvation around the world. Hi-tech has the potential of solving many of the world’s other most significant economic problems—and get us vacationing on Mars. More people give more money to charity, and more people spend more time volunteering for worthy causes than ever before.

So tell me more good stuff about the future, and how I can get involved in making it happen. And explain to me, please, how your traditional Jewish practice is relevant to all this.

2. If this is a lecture about my bad behavior, I’m not there.

Look, it’s not like I believe I’m perfect. Far from it. In fact, I come loaded with enough guilt to sink a cruise ship. It’s part of my operating system. So when somebody hits those sensitive soft spots, I just run away.

Instead, how about providing us with some tools for positive, higher living? Everyone else is offering meditation, mindfulness, yoga and hyper-motivational strategies. What have you got to offer?Everyone else is offering meditation, mindfulness, yoga and hyper-motivational strategies for stress-free life and success. And for good reason: We need it. What have you got to offer?

And I mean tools. Daily practices that will change my life. I know you’ve got them. The kosher thing. The Shabbat thing. The prayers in black leather boxes and white blankets with black stripes thing. But I have no idea how any of these connect to anything spiritual. Maybe they don’t. But if they do, why aren’t you telling me about that?

Even if I’m not ready to give them a whirl, at least I’ll know they’re there. At least then you’ve given me a real way to improve myself.

3. If I want my values affirmed, I’ve got Facebook, YouTube and the idiot box.

Isn’t there anything transcendental, spiritual and otherworldly in this religion? Elsewhere, spiritual teachers wear flowing robes, or at least designer jeans. Most rabbis dress like middle management from some bottom-line, dinosaur corporation—and talk like them too. Why is that?

Okay, I’m not asking youIf I’m coming on the High Holidays of my own religion, I want to get high, real high. to look like the black-turtleneck-and-jeans CEO of some startup. And I certainly don’t mind learning something about traditional family values, social justice, principles and morals. Even if I don’t keep them, I’m not going to argue.

But if I’m coming on the ultimate spiritual day of my own religion, I want to get high, real high. I want you to look and act like a guide to a world beyond my own.

Give me mystery. Give me beauty. Give me that wow factor—the stuff I just can’t wrap my mind around, but sounds real cool. And then show me how to bring it down to earth, how to make my life just as awesome.

Then I’ll know that you are the address for spiritual guidance and healing of the soul. You will be my icon of Jewish spirituality.

4. I don’t live in Israel.

Yes, I know it’s important. But I wish you could relate to the hassle I got in college over it. And, really, I have sincereDoesn’t my own religion have anything to say about me and my personal issues? questions about some of its policies.

So don’t expect to win me over in one sermon, no matter how many facts you pummel me with.

Besides, right now, it’s not at the top of my priority list. What is? Me. Talk to me about me.

And no, that’s not egocentric. There’s a lot going on inside me, and I could use some real guidance dealing with it. Doesn’t my own religion have anything to say about me and my personal issues?

5. The Holocaust doesn’t inspire me.

Why should it? Is it inspiring to be a member of the persecuted people? Does it make me proud that the whole world hated us, Why should I be inspired by other people’s hatred of me?wished we would be gone for good, and wouldn’t even step in to accept refugees or bomb a few train tracks? Is that supposed to be the basis of my entire Jewishness—that I’m a member of the people they keep trying to destroy?

C’mon, Rabbi! I really want you to make me feel good that I’m a Jew! Just tell me: What does that mean? Where do I come from? What are we here for? How do I fit into all this?

Get me high, Rabbi! Don’t they call these the High Holidays? Get me high on my Jewishness!

6. My politics are not your politics.

Look, statistically speaking, the more opinions you have, the more of your congregationthe more opinions you have, the more of your congregation you’re going to alienate. you’re going to alienate.

And the fact is, I’m sick of politics. I’ve given up on the movers, the shakers and the candlestick makers floating in their little tub in Washington, D.C. There’s nobody there that inspires me, nobody to emulate, nobody to respect.

But you—if you will just talk with dignity, speak some enlightened words, speak to me, to my soul, instead of down to me like I’m just another seat-filler to applaud your dramatics and histrionics. If you stand for something, bravely and with certainty, totally unfazed that you're being 100% un-pc and you know I'm going to utterly reject every word—but I will respect you.

Then you could be my hero, the one person in the world I can admire.

7. I’m here. I don’t have to be. Ever.

So I didn’t come to synagogue the rest of the year. Why should I? Why should I? Give me a reason.I had my bar mitzvah already, and if I had a kid, I don’t really know that I would put him through the same ordeal.

If I do come this year for the High Holidays, you better think of a real good reason I should be coming back. Because all the reasons I’ve been given until now just have not worked. Especially anything that sounds close to yet another “So you finally remembered you have a mother” guilt trip.

8. If I want to know what Chesterton, Pushkin and Malcolm Gladwell have to say, why would I come to a Jewish synagogue on Rosh Hashanah?

True, I want to see that you can relate to my world. Weren’t there any true Jewish sages that I can relate to?I grasp best ideas when I can connect to things I already know.

But there’s stuff I know nothing about. Like my own Judaism. Moses split the Red Sea, David killed Goliath, Albert Einstein split an atom (or something like that) and Moshe Dayan won a war with one eye in six days. (Hey, is that why we rest on the seventh?) There’s one G‑d, not two, three, or fifteen million. He gets real upset if you don’t listen to Him, and some people believe in Him. That’s about it.

I’m assaulted by a thousand voices each day, screaming at me their opinions, their great ideas, their new path to wisdom. Isn’t there some authentically Jewish wisdom and guidance through this messy life? Weren’t there any true Jewish sages that I can relate to?

9. Ted Talks don’t go over 20 minutes. There’s a reason for that.

And since I haven’t left you much to say, that should beIs it your sermon that concerns you, or is it me? easy now. Unless you just feel some great need to fill that hour with your masterful oratorical skills. In which case, why am I paying your synagogue to be an extra on your set?

That’s really all I want to see. Is it your sermon that concerns you, or is it me, and everyone else who has committed to sitting there?

10. Can you explain in simple, down-to-earth language just what it is I should be doing to be a better Jew?

No, I’m not going to negotiate a deal between Israel and Iran. Neither do I really believe I’ll be the savior of the blue whale, or the pandas.

And if you expect me to give up on dining with my friendsGive me something small and easy, maybe I can handle it. at my favorite restaurants, or missing out on the action downtown on Friday nights just because of your once-a-year sermon, it just ain’t happening.

But, hey, give me something small and easy, and maybe I can handle it. SomethingI can actually carry out the door with me into the year. Like maybe just a little mitzvah to do once a week.

And you know what? If you walk over to me before I leave, give me all your attention for even half a minute, and leave me with a warm handshake or even a hug—you might just have me sold.

It’s those small things, y’know. Sell me something I can afford. To me, those are the most valuable things of all.