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Getting Real

Getting Real


Here's another area where Jewish and secular values greatly differ: holidays. Jewish life and "secular" life both consist of workdays and holidays. But beyond the semantic relationship, Jewish holidays and secular holidays have very little in common.

On the secular calendar, vacation days are dispersed throughout the year to provide a respite from the drudgery of the daily work routine. In fact, most people work for their vacations: their job is merely a means towards an end, the end being the relaxation and enjoyment on the day when one is not in the office. Granted, the primary reason for working is to generate income to pay the basic bills and make ends meet, but it's the holiday vacation plans which provide the added incentive to volunteer for the overtime shift. And unless you are a certified workaholic, the office will not be on your mind when you are enjoying your family barbeque, sunset over the Pacific, or the slopes in Aspen. The office has served its purpose; now it's time to enjoy the reward!

The holidays are beacons of light interspersed through the year, each one intended to illuminate the rest of the Jewish "work year"Jewish holidays, on the other hand, do not populate the Jewish calendar to provide for relaxation and vacation from Jewish everyday life. In fact, Jewish holidays are characterized by intensification in religious activity, added hours spent in the Jewish office (aka: synagogue), and multitudes of seasonal rituals and traditions. Rather, the holidays are beacons of light interspersed through the year, each one intended to illuminate the rest of the Jewish "work year" with its unique shade of spiritual light and inspiration.

In short: in the business world people work in order to be able to holiday; in the Jewish world, we holiday in order to be able to work!

G‑d is more interested in our mundane workdays than our extra-curricular holiday antics. We can be portraits of piety when clad in a kittel (long white robe) swaying to the High Holiday prayers, braving the elements to eat in the sukkah, or ecstatically dancing on Simchat Torah — but is this the real you? It is our daily routine which truly reflects who we are, not our occasional inspired outbursts of holiday holiness.

And G‑d so desperately wants to be part of our real life — not just part of our holiday plans. So He gives us holidays, hoping that during these moments of inspiration we will allow Him to enter our hearts - and hoping that we won't evict Him during the havdallah ceremony which follows the holiday.

Will we?

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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Anonymous Not Brooklyn, NY October 24, 2016

Very good insight. Reply

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