Yom Kippur: Celebrity Edition
Yes, even famous people must atone.
Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews, other than the semi-annual clothing sales at Macys. Its central themes are atonement and repentance – so, no, it is not considered one of the “fun” Jewish holidays. Jews observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services, where one finally refrains from playing Angry Birds on one’s smart phone.
Yom Kippur is an opportunity for all Jews to obtain atonement from their transgressions, even celebrities. Whether they’re politicians, athletes, business leaders, or stars of stage, screen, TV or recordings, they too might well consider amending their behavior for wrongs done against God or against other human beings. And, no, they cannot have their assistants, children, or interns do this for them. Apparently, God doesn’t take kindly to that.
No, celebrities cannot have their interns repent for them. God doesn’t take kindly to that.
Here is a representative sampling of current Jewish and non-Jewish celebrities, what they might be atoning for this year, and how they might consider repenting.
It used to be that a TV series would start in the Fall, end in the Spring, show Summer reruns, then start up again in the Fall. You can kiss those days goodbye. Scheduling shows today is like the Wild West – anything goes at any time, especially with cable TV. Take Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Great show. When did it last air new episodes? Five years ago? Sure seems that way. Larry might, then, atone for letting his fans down and contributing to the ongoing loss of the TV viewing audience to other media and forms of recreation. He could also atone for causing the loss of income for the actors and production folks connected with the show. How to repent? This one’s easy – by producing and airing new shows ASAP, perhaps with a funny apology by Larry himself preceding the first new show. We could then find it in our hearts to forgive him, couldn’t we? Or, would holding a grudge for a long time be more in the spirit of Larry’s show?
Iranian President Ahmadinejad is a controversial figure both within Iran and internationally. He has been criticized domestically for his economic lapses and disregard for human rights. He supports Iran's long-standing policy of refusing to recognize Israel as a legitimate state. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the government routinely tortures and mistreats detained dissidents, including through prolonged solitary confinement. In September 2010, Ahmadinejad caused another controversy at the U.N. by claiming that most people believed the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks. The speech triggered a mass walkout, and President Obama described the claims as "inexcusable", "offensive" and "hateful." The only challenge for Ahmadinejad atoning and repenting for all this is finding the time to do so. Even if he cleared his schedule of everything else, he still might require several lifetimes to adequately cover his offenses. Still, an apology at the U.N. and to his country, and initiating peace talks with Israel might be a good start. Hey, a guy can dream.
A poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 21 percent of people aged 18 to 29 cited "The Daily Show" and "Saturday Night Live" as a place where they regularly learned presidential campaign news. Not CNN or CBS. Not NBC or ABC. Not even Fox. Our young people, America’s future, are getting their national news from comedy shows. Which is good news for those comedy shows’ ratings and less good news for an educated future electorate. I blame Jon Stewart – for being brilliant, cutting edge, and funny. How is any traditional news broadcast supposed to compete with that? Jon – atone for your wonderfulness; repent by urging your young viewers to pick up a newspaper or at least read one online. That doesn’t mean The Onion. Suggest that they regularly watch NBC News or CNN. You have the power, Jon, to keep America’s youth informed, entertained, and well-rounded. Use it. See you in shul.
Being described as an American politician, commentator and author sounds pretty impressive – until you find out that the person in question is Sarah Palin. Palin, amazingly, was the Republican Party nominee for Vice President in the 2008 presidential election. And just to prove that there’s no underestimating the taste of the American public, her book Going Rogue has sold more than two million copies. Since January 2010, Palin has provided political commentary for Fox News, and hosted a television show, Sarah Palin's Alaska. Following the Convention, her image came under close media scrutiny, particularly with regard to her religious perspective on public life, her socially conservative views, and her perceived lack of experience. Her controversial viewpoints along with personal issues all pretty much put an end to her political career, though strangely also endeared her to others. One could give Palin a long list of things for which she might atone and repent – but once someone read them to her, would she really understand them?
Gene Simmons (born Chaim Weitz in Israel) is an American rock bassist, singer-songwriter, producer, entrepreneur and actor. Known by his stage persona "The Demon," he is the bassist/co-vocalist of KISS, a hard rock band he co-founded in the early 1970s. With KISS, Simmons has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. Simmons has also spearheaded what must be the largest collection of branded merchandise available for any band. KISS fans can purchase KISS versions of: t-shirts, programs, posters, calendars, hats, drinkware, comics, wine, art, video, jewelry, action figures, books, bobble heads, coins, coffins, and much more. So, for starters, Simmons might atone and repent for squeezing the last cent from his impressionable fans, teaching them that true happiness, at least for Simmons, comes from deep within – his fans’ wallets. If that’s not enough, have you seen his reality TV show Gene Simmons Family Jewels? That by itself requires a whole lot of atoning. I hope God is in a forgiving mood. For Gene, and for the rest of us.