The Worst Temptation of Max

Facing Evil and Injustice in Today's World

Stephen M. Hudspeth


ISBN-13: 9781606741511



The “worst temptation” in the title is the temptation to do nothing in the face of evil and injustice. This play addresses that subject initially with humor which children and youth will hopefully appreciate from their own lives, and then with deadly seriousness about some of the worst times of evil our world has ever known, and finally with application to our own times and in our own community.

It was written to address incidents of racial, religious (especially anti-Semitic), and homophobic slurs in our community and specifically at our high school. Our sixth and seventh grade class studied the Jewish roots of our faith and then focused on the Holocaust in detail to understand what happened and also to see how people responded to this enormous evil. They also studied segregation in the U.S. and viewed the Southern Poverty Law Center’s film Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks, in class, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend.

This sermon/play is designed to put that “fire in the belly” against all forms of intolerance, bullying and slurring of our fellow human beings whom God implores us to love.

This is the first of three sermon plays (which stand on their own) in the Temptation Trilogy that feature the characters “Hari” and “Tovi” who act like invisible shadows to the character, Max. They are like the “angel” and “devil” often depicted in cartoons with each whispering over the right or left shoulder of a person (like their subconscious).

Cast Needed: 35 +/-

 Cast List

Narrators (10) – can be combined
Anne Frank
Father Maximilian Kolbe
Raoul Wallenberg
Chiune Sugihara
The King of Denmark
Danes (2)
Bus driver
Detained Man
Detainers (2)
Watching Wife
Children (2)
Students (8)
Nazi Thugs (2)

Parts can be shared by many individuals

Time Length: 30-45 minutes

Age Level: Youth

Audience: All ages 

Stephen M. Hudspeth of Wilton, Connecticut, has taught church school for over twenty years, mostly to sixth and seventh graders, at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, writing a new play script almost every year for his class in a church school which is conducted jointly with Wilton Presbyterian Church; he has also taught confirmation classes for six years. He has been the chief lay officer (Senior Warden) of two Episcopal parishes, one in New York City and the other St. Matthew’s in Wilton, the latter two times.

He also served for a decade as the Chair of the Stewardship Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and for two terms as a trustee of Union Theological Seminary in New York City (affiliated with Columbia University). In his current professional work, he teaches courses in law at the Yale Law School and in law and administration at Union Theological Seminary.

Until his retirement as a partner of a large international law firm at year-end 2004, he served for a dozen years as the chair of its global litigation department and of its pro bono committee. He has been married for over four decades to Rebecca Hudspeth whom he thanks profoundly for all of her help and support in this play writing and production process (and in all other things!) They have two children and two grandchildren.

The Worst Temptation of Max
Name Me
Just Live it

These plays form a trilogy that is intended for performance in either a single-faith or multi-faith setting and were actually each performed at services joined in by Christian and Jewish congregations. They benefited greatly from the insights of Rabbi Jon Haddon of Temple Shearith Israel in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and Rabbi Leah Cohen of Temple B’nai Chaim in Wilton, Connecticut, on the concept of Yetser Ha-ra, the powerfully energizing impulse that can easily turn to bad and even evil if not channeled and controlled, and Yetser Tov, the good impulse. This concept dates back in Jewish tradition to the time of the great Rabbi Hillel who died in 10 C.E. in Jerusalem, right before Jesus began his ministry in Galilee and Judea. The tradition views Yetser Ha-ra as a particularly strong impulse within us; it holds that only by constant study of Scripture and the regular doing of good can we fully empower our Yetser Tov to overcome our Yetser Hara.

The sermon/plays present this concept in the context of events which are part of the environment of our students’ own lives and then place the concept in a larger context both of history and of theology in terms accessible to students of their ages and younger. The concepts of Yetser Tov and Yetser Ha-ra have been enormously popular with both our student actors and our congregations, including the young people from kindergarten through high school age who attend the joint “Festival of Children” services where the plays have been performed as the service’s sermon. The actors and congregations have also reallyliked the congregational choice of endings that is a feature of the last two, and, in fact, my students even petitioned me to include the choice again in what became the third play in this trilogy after its use in the second one.



A hamsa is an amulet shaped like a hand, with three extended fingers in the middle and a curved thumb or pinky finger on either side. It is thought to protect against the "evil eye" and is a popular motif in both Jewish and Middle Eastern jewelry. The name "hamsa" comes from the Hebrew word "hamesh," which means five. Hamsa refers to the fact that there are five fingers on the talisman, though some also believe it represents the five books of the Torah. Sometimes it is called the Hand of Miriam, after Moses' sister. In Islam, the hamsa is called the Hand of Fatima, in honor of one of the daughters of the Prophet Mohammed. Some say that in Islamic tradition the five fingers represent the Five Pillars of Islam.

In addition to being shaped like an oddly formed hand, many hamsas will have an eye displayed in the palm of the hand. The eye is thought to be a powerful talisman against the "evil eye." The evil eye is a certain "look" that can cause bad luck for the person at whom it is directed. This "look" often originates with a person, though not always intentionally. Legends about the evil eye give both regular people and those with certain powers the ability to cast the evil eye. In the case of the average Joe, envy is most often cited as the unintentional source of the evil eye.

We are using this symbol for the covers of the Skiturgies by Steve Hudspeth as his plays examine how this "evil" as well as "good" play out in our own lives and actions today.



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