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High Holiday Seat Tips

September 25, 2016 | by David Kilimnick

Get the best bang for your buck out of your High Holiday seats in shul this year.

Contrary to popular belief, Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur are not only about a New Year or atonement. The High Holidays are also about your seat. That’s right, where you are located in the shul.

It’s too late to take off the 80 necessary pounds to fit into one of the seats comfortably.

Please do not complain about having to pay for seats. You are part of a community. That means you have to contribute. And that means you have to pull out some cash. But that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve good value, right? So here are some of my tips on getting the best bang for your buck out of your High Holiday seats in shul.

Purchase a Seat in Shul as Quickly as Possible

Synagogues are packed on the High Holidays. Something about judgment, life and death makes people feel religious.

You do not want to be the outcast, sitting in the free 'I didn't pay my dues' section. Especially if you are single, purchase a seat. Show people you can commit to something.

If you are lucky enough to go to a shul that has been around for a while, get a cushioned seat. Those go fast. For comfortable seating at a much lower price point, show up to shul on Shabbat. Due to the lack of regular confrontation with demise, some Jews skip these weekly services. For this reason, I have suggested to many rabbis to focus more on death in their sermons; in order to boost weekly attendance.

Tiny Seats in Shul

The new seats in shuls are tiny. They aren’t made for people. Tiny little bucket stools. If you are a half a person, you can fit in with your leg over the armrest.

As the High Holidays are about penitence, they tried to create a formula for discomfort and space.

The optimal discomfort would be to sit everybody on a plane for the Shofar blowing. Being that it is forbidden to fly on the holidays, most shuls have tried to recreate the feeling of transatlantic trip on a low cost air carrier.

The bad news is, that it is too late to take off the 80 necessary pounds to fit into one of the seats comfortably. If you can find a seat at the end of the row, you can lean at a 45-degree angle for the fifteen-hour service. This level of comfort is acceptable, as the leaning gives a look of penitence, and there is a chance that you will throw out your back.

Chasing People Out of Your Assigned Seat

Yes, there are people who try to buy the cheap seats, up in the bleachers. But they are always trying to sneak down to the front to get a better view of the action. Perhaps they do not realize that you purchased the seat so you deserve the right to catch a good glimpse of the cantor’s top hat. You deserve to be part of the excitement!

First start with a little Tallit smack. Put on your prayer shawl with a big swing, so the tassels smack the guy in the face. Let them know how it works when you paid top dollar for a seat and somebody is in it.

This is no different than a baseball game. Find an usher and have him take care of the matter.

Make Sure You Do Not Sit in front of A Pew That Has Prayer Book Holders

Shtenders - prayer book holders, behind your seat is worse than any repeated word, with extended notes, by your cantor.

These days, they started making the shtender just small enough, so the guy’s machzor (High Holiday prayer book) is smacking my head throughout the service.

Discomfort being the key, last Yom Kippur, as I was hitting my heart, I used my third hit to whack the guy behind me. I then took the guy's machzor which was in my neck, and smacked him with it. I always questioned why all holy books were hardcover. Thanks to this experience I now feel closer to the holy words of our tradition. Then I kicked him.

He wasn't in my seat in shul, but somebody had to let him know that we are in the middle of the Day of Atonement for our sins. After throwing a couple of punches at him, I feel like I got out all of my hatred. I felt extremely penitent.

Share the Armrest

They make sure to provide one armrest for every two seats. My nephew thinks the whole row is his armrest. He is leaning across the entire thing.

Work with your fellow human being. Enough of the passive aggressive fight that has been going on in synagogues since the beginning of time. Be kind. This is a little thing we all can do, to make for a more giving society. Working on our positive personal character, is a large part of repentance. Go frontsies-backsies with your neighbor. Maybe go for arm against arm support. Do repentance like the Rambam says, and say, 'I will never elbow fight again with my neighbor.' Make a resolution that makes a difference, and next time you fly say, ‘This is your armrest, just as much as mine.’

Know Your Hebrew Name

You do not want your chair saying Max the son of Bernie Who Still Owes for His Seat.

Bring a Lawn Chair

This is a decent way to save money. The isles are never taken. If you are already in the ‘I did not pay my dues’ section, people already know to expect very little from you.

Plastic Chair Section

If you are sitting here, you probably also didn’t pay their dues. That is fine. There are advantages. If you show up early enough, you can reset the plastic area to suit your needs. Let’s say you want to take a break, you are sitting in the hallway with your handy dandy plastic chair, looking classy while everybody else is standing. And if the services take more than 12 hours, take your seat back to your home and relax.

The guy in front of me last year set up the plastic section for his own needs. During the service, he pushed the plastic chair back every chance he could. He had a lot more space than anybody else in the shul. And he did not pay any dues. Talk about getting value! This guy has clearly started the New Year off right!


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