Most synagogue services feature three basic forms of expression: prayers, sermons and announcements. Obviously, prayers are essential because a prayer service without prayer is like an awards show without awards, a musical without music or a rock concert without . . . rocks.

Synagogue sermons are not necessarily essential but a good sermon, like a good halftime speech, can be incredibly uplifting. That said, sermons and halftime speeches probably should not be combined. Here is a cautionary tale:

Rabbi: Alright congregants, settle down and listen up. We are NOT going to succeed unless we start praying together as a TEAM!!!
Congregant #1: But coach – I mean, rabbi – the Torah portion this week is just too long!
Rabbi: Was slavery in Egypt too long? Was wandering in the desert for forty years too long? Was my sermon last week too long?
Congregant #2: Actually, yes, it was. It was way too long.
Rabbi: That's not the point! The point is, the only thing standing between us and a scrumptious kiddush is teamwork! Now, who's with me!?!?
Congregant #1: But is it a hot kiddush?
Congregant #2: Including cholent?
Rabbi: That’s enough from you two. I'm benching both of you right now!
Congregant #3: But Coach Rabbi, I thought benching occurs only after a meal?
Rabbi: Oy vey.

While prayers are essential and sermons are inspirational, in-shul announcements are neither and can easily be conveyed during the week by snail mail, e-mail, robo calls, skywriting, smoke signals and Morse code. (BTW: Do not confuse Morse code with Morris code, which is when your annoying Uncle Morris incessantly taps on the door until you begrudgingly let him in.) Many Jews nevertheless take a certain amount of delight in listening to weekly announcements in shul. For some, news is not official unless and until it is publicly announced by the shul president. Thus, the shul president is to the synagogue service what Page Six is to the New York Post.

Congregants, however, have to be very careful when reacting to synagogue announcements, especially when they include both happy and sad news. If you respond too reflexively by rote, it can lead to an extremely awkward and awful moment. For example:

President: Mazel tov to the Cohen family on the birth of a baby girl.
Congregation: Mazel tov!
President: Mazel tov to the Goldberg family on the engagement of their son.
Congregation: Mazel tov!
President: Condolences to the Plotz family on their recent loss.
Congregation: Mazel tov! [Oops!]

Sometimes, synagogue announcements include news that quite frankly is not worthy of public declaration. Here are examples of news items that should not be announced in shul:

Mazel tov to the Lockstein family on securing a 3.50% 30-year fixed rate mortgage.
Mazel tov to the Green family on reducing their carbon footprint.
Mazel tov to the Sneezbergs family on overcoming the common cold.
Mazel tov to the Politicatt family on teaching their children the difference between right and left.
Mazel tov to the Buildenstein family on receiving a permit to extend their kitchen and install a backyard pool.
Mazel tov to the Laddermen family on transitioning from a less to a more desirable social circle.
Mazel tov to the Broadwein family on seeing "Hamilton" for the third time.
Mazel tov to the Geiocofsky family on refusing to pay more for car insurance.

Of course, there are some announcements that, in all likelihood, will never be made in a synagogue, like:

  1. Last week there were too many people in shul. Next week, please attend services only if your last name begins with letters A through K.
  2. Last week there was not enough talking during services. It was almost too quiet, which the rabbi and chazzan found rather unsettling. Next week, please create a more realistic environment with some gossip, sophistry and narishkeit.
  3. This week's kiddush is sponsored by an anonymous donor who genuinely does not need or want public praise.
  4. The rabbi feels underworked and therefore would like to take on even more responsibility.
  5. This year, the shul received too many pledges in response to the High Holiday appeal.
  6. This week not a single congregant complained about anything.
  7. By popular demand, we are making Shabbat services longer.
  8. Please stop returning your siddurim and chumashim to the bookcases. The shul is looking too neat and tidy.
  9. This week . . . there are no announcements.

Of course, if you make an announcement that there are no announcements, then there arguably was an announcement. Similarly, if during davening you tell someone that talking in shul is not allowed, then haven't you just broken that very rule? (Discuss.)

Bottom-line: Announcements are better than renouncements which, in turn, are better than denouncements.