The Greatest Audience

Friday, 9 February, 2024 - 7:26 am

Seven million dollars.

That’s the average cost for a 30-second advertising spot for the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Despite recent concerns that an ad may tank a company, there is no shortage of advertisers.

(Do people still watch the game, or do they just skip to the commercials?)

Contrast this astronomical price tag to an infomercial on a local TV station at 3:00 am.  It’s virtually free.

The clear lesson is that the value of (advertising) time clearly depends on the audience.  At 3:00 am nobody can justify spending millions on a commercial.  But the chance to promote your merchandise or company to what may be the most watched televised event in history is a different story altogether.  Production costs aside, the average advertiser would pay under 10 cents per person – a slightly more palatable figure (okay it’s still absurd!).


This Shabbat we are privileged to host a Scholar in Residence.

There is an old joke that says, “What’s worse than having no one show up at an event you hold?  Having one or two people show up – then they know that no one else came!”

Such is exactly what happened to a Chabad emissary couple some years ago. After intense preparations for an event for which they had brought in an out-of-town lecturer and expected dozens of attendees, the unthinkable happened.  Only one person showed up.

Dismayed, the rabbi wanted to let him go home.  But the speaker had already prepared a talk. So he decided to sit down with the gentleman that came and have a one-on-one.

With a heavy heart, the Shliach reported the unsuccessful event to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.  The Rebbe replied as follows (paraphrased).

You may hold an event for 100 people. Of those hundred, only about twenty may be seriously interested. Of those twenty, perhaps only one or two will take it to heart.

Here, G-d has done you a favor.  Instead of working though a crowd of hundreds to find the one person that really will be impacted, G-d has afforded you a direct encounter to change someone’s life.

The Rebbe’s words were not for naught.  This individual was changed by the ‘event’ and became a more observant Jew!

Having the ‘right’ audience is crucial to a productive encounter.


My colleague Rabbi Yossi Serebryanski of Denver pointed out the great irony of our culture.

We will spend millions to get more people to buy our product, but we often ignore the greatest one-on-one opportunity ever.  In fact, every day we have opportunities for one-one-on sessions with the Master of the Universe.  The value is priceless.  And it’s free!

In this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, the Torah commands us, “You shall worship G-d, your G-d.”  There are many ways to serve G-d. Prayer, visiting the sick, reciting the Modeh Ani, caring for the elderly, Torah study, and observing Shabbat are just a few.  While one may focus on G-d’s greatness and the other on a human being’s needs, they are both Divine worship.  The common denominator is the bond forged between the finite human and the infinite G-d.

Maybe we ought to fast forward some of the commercials and get to the real show.

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