| I have some good news, and some bad news for you. But before I tell you
news', I'd like to tell you about a somewhat embarrassing experience that I
recently. I'll tell you about it on the following condition; that you won't
else about it. Is that a deal? Good!
It happened just this past week, when I was teaching a special class for
grade boys at Epstein Hebrew Academy. It was the first time that I was
this class, and I was attempting to be on my best behavior, knowing that my
Chiyya was in the class, and would be observing his father 'in action.'
going great, as I spoke with the boys about 'Preparing for Yom
Kippur'...until I spied
a boy in the back of the class doing something with a bottle of glue. My
turned to astonishment, as I saw a young man gluing the finishing touches on
a paper airplane! Now, I'd like you to know that I would have never done
thing when I was in school, and I'm sure you wouldn't have, either. Boy, was
upset! I strode quickly to the back of the class, ceremoniously snatched the
of glue from the offenders hands, while simultaneously snatching the paper
crumbling it with the other hand and tossing it in the waste basket.
Doesn't that sound like a great moment in the annals of teaching, folks?
you inspired to nominate me for 'Missouri Teacher of the Year'? Well,
went well in my foiling this dastardly plot, except for one small
paper airplane was covered with glue, and when I picked it up -- and in
when I angrily crumpled it -- my hand became almost completely covered with
Realizing that I was standing there with a glue-covered hand, I ordered
airplane criminal to quickly bring me some wet paper towels. The towels did
wonderful job -- of smearing the glue more evenly on my hand. As I continued
teaching, I picked up a piece of chalk to write on the board. The chalk
stuck to my
hand, and chalk dust mixed quite nicely with some glue that had made it to
of my fingers. Was I ever embarrassed!
Later on that evening, I asked my son Chiyya what he thought of seeing
teach for the first time. He said, "It was a nice class, Dad..but boy, did
you get mad
at that kid!!"
I have to tell you that although I think the class otherwise went well,
embarrassed how I lost control of myself, and made myself into a fool in the
presence of a class of 7th graders. Believe me, if I had thought that the
was watching me, or had I known I was being recorded, I would have handled
situation very differently that morning.
The reason I share this experience with you today, is because I have a
that I'm not the only one who has had this type of experience. Am I right?
The theme of my remarks today is: all of us are on 'Candid Camera' all the
days of our lives, and therefore, we ought to live with the awareness that we
Let me tell you the most bizarre example of being on 'Candid Camera'
know. Perhaps you read the story, which appeared in the newspapers a number
of years ago.
There was a wedding at a certain catering house in New Jersey. The
father of the
bride brought a great deal of cash with him with which to pay the caterer,
orchestra leader and the waiters. The money was in an envelope that he kept
inside breast pocket of his tuxedo. The wedding was freilich. Everyone
enthusiastically, and as the evening wore on, they began to feel warm. The
of the bride took off his jacket and draped it over a chair. When the party
he put on his jacket, reached into his breast pocket....and the money was
What could he do? The father had no choice. He had to sit down and
checks to the caterer, the orchestra leader, and the waiters. And then
remembered ...that the camcorder had been on all night. Maybe...?
They played it back and looked at the tape. And sure enough, they saw
other than the father of the groom reaching into his mechutan's inside
the money out, and putting it into his own pocket...on camera! To put it
marriage got off to a very shaky start.
Why do I tell you these stories today? Simply to make the point that
all of us
would behave much better if we thought we were on Candid Camera. The truth
though, ladies and gentleman, that we are on 'Candid Camera' every moment of
lives. Isn't that what the 'Unisane Tokef' prayer that we'll be reciting
today says --
that there is a God, and that this God is a "sofer umoneh va'ed v'yodeah
v'kosayv v'chosem" -- that this God sees and hears and records and registers
counts and judges all that we do. That's what the 'U'nisaneh Tokef' says.
we feel about this prayer? Do we believe it; do we take it seriously?
I confess that when I was younger, I had a hard time picturing God as
Scorekeeper or Bookkeeper in the Sky, who not only knew everything we did,
everything we said....and even everything we thought. As I became older, and
thinking became more mature, I came to understand and accept the words of the
passage in 'Ethics of Our Fathers' (2:20) that says, "The day is short, the
great, the workers are lazy, there is much reward to be paid, and the Owner
I now know that God watches and records all that we do. I also know
kids are walking tape recorders, and that they watch and record all that I
see me when I'm not 'the rabbi,' and whether I realize it or not, they're
'on' all the time
How much tzedakah do we give? They know. Do we complain about our bosses
or our workers? They know. Do we make comments behind the backs of our
friends? They know. What we do, what we talk about at the table, what we
for, and what we fall for -- are all recorded by our kids. And it affects
them for the rest
of their lives. That's the bad news.
Now let me give you the good news. The good news is: the good we do is
recorded by our kids....and it lasts, too. I'm sure that each and every one
of you here
recorded examples on your 'Candid Camera' recorder about your parents, that
created indelible memories of some wonderful aspects of your parents lives,
way that they raised you. I remember how my father, he should live and be
once came home telling us that he gave $5 to a man who he picked up
who said he didn't have enough to eat. Someone suggested that he was a
I'll never forget my father's response, as he said, "So, maybe I am a sucker.
better to be a sucker, in case he really did need the money for something to
The bad news is that we are on Candid Camera, and that all of the vain
and selfish and stupid things that we do are recorded, whether we know it or
The good news is that we are on Candid Camera, and that all of the good and
deeds we do are also recorded, whether we know it or not.
The very good news is; that if we don't like what we have recorded in
the year that
has now ended, we have the power to 'edit the tape.' We can go back and not
simply splice out the bad things we did, through the process of tshvua, but
change its meaning. We can turn it from a mistake into a stepping stone
growth; from an avayrah into a turning point, if we really want to, to make
mistakes lessons from which we learn. It's up to us to make such a decision,
time - and if we do, we can live differently in the new year that now begins.
May this be a good year, for each and every one of us. Good Yom Tov.