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How the Pontiff Welcomes in Yontef

Shalom, good yontef, good yontef, good yontef, namaste, y’all. I am the pope, the literal representative of the Lord on Earth. Please be seated. Put away your selfie sticks. This is serious business.

Before I begin my sermon, I just have to ask: How do you rabbis do it? If I had to offer biblical commentary on current events every Friday night, I would go completely meshuga. Refuting centuries-old ignorant beliefs on a regular basis, which I have to do, is difficult — don’t get me wrong. But here you stand in front of 100 half-asleep, mostly retired congregants who can’t wait to get home and watch “Blue Bloods.” You are literally preaching to the converted, week in, week out.

Still, here I am to enlighten you. I’m the pope, dammit! Il Papa! El queso grande! Welcome, one and all, to Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year.

Yom Kippur is a time to reflect on what is past, to feel terribly guilty about what you have and haven’t done. Did I remember to nag my children about age-old traditions that no longer have relevance? Did I tip the pool boy? Did I buy grass-fed meat? Did I watch a lot of “NCIS,” a show that apparently is only about murdering prostitutes? Have I sinned? Have I transgressed? Have I done perversely?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. Who do I look like, Rabbi Jacob ben Eleazar of Chelm? But I do know this: Sin is relative, and if you’re Jewish, then you’ve probably sinned against your relatives. Even if you haven’t, they think you have, and when it comes to family, perception is nine-tenths of Jewish law. I looked that up in the Kabbalah.

Regardless, you must confess. Serve up all your sins, real or imagined, like you’re setting out treyf at a cruise-ship buffet. Admit them all: sins of thought; sins of deed; sins of driving an SUV; sins of not reaching your Fitbit goals three days in a row; sins of still not having gotten around to the “Mad Men” finale and of not investing in Tesla stock when you had a chance; sins committed in anger; passive-aggressive sins; sins of over-parenting, under-parenting, helicopter parenting; sins of letting back issues of The New Yorker pile up in the guest bathroom, sins of looking lustfully at GIFs of Taylor Swift, and sins of cutting in line in the Vatican City lunchroom because you’re the pope. Some of these sins, I realize, are more relatable than others.

The Book of Numbers, in addition to postulating that there are a lot of numbers in the world, says that sins are numberless, or at least as numerous as there are people. By my estimation, there are 7 billion, so you have sinned 7 billion times this year alone. Naughty lambs, God is ashamed of you. You have murdered and stolen and swiped right on Tinder when you should have swiped left. Most unforgivably, you harbored the thought that Stephen Colbert might not be as entertaining as people think, and that, in fact, he might even be a little smug. That is wrong. Very wrong. In fact, Colbert will become pope when I retire. We could use a singing pope with interviewing skills.

If my version of God had anything to say about all your hideous transgressions, which include reading the Style section when you should be reading Metro, you’d have to say at least three Hail Marys and possibly finger your rosary for a while. But the Jewish God is so angry and cruel. Kindly and generous people will die this year, taken away from their friends and family far too early, while tons of greedy scumbags will live forever. That’s the price of admission to This American Life, which is actually cheaper than seeing the radio show live. A hundred bucks for Ira Glass? I don’t think so. For all these reasons, and more, Moses stood by the burning bush and said, “Is that all there is?”

As I said earlier this year, the world is an immense pile of filth, and we’re all just riding shotgun on a hearse. It’s all your fault, remember that. Your God and I are very disappointed in you.

A few announcements: We will be using the overflow room for the 3 p.m. service, because no one wants to miss the day’s fourth Yom Kippur prayer opportunity. The Temple Brotherhood is accepting donations for oxygen masks and lumbar-support pillows. Don’t forget to tip your ushers. They’ll be here all week.

Meanwhile, does anyone know where I can get a sandwich? I’m feeling a little peckish.


Please rise.

Pope out.

Neal Pollack’s most recent novel is “Repeat” (Lake Union Publishing).

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