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The Weekday Holiday

The Weekday Holiday

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Aspiring Olympians train for years, focusing everything they do on one day. They spend thousands of hours of pressure and preparation in the hope that they’ll peak at precisely the right moment. To a lesser degree, students do the same; their yearly mark depends on the final exam and can often determine their future profession.

What are the highlights of your career? When you look back at the photo album of your life, which moments will you most treasure or regret, and which will you struggle to even remember?

Certain days just mean more—your wedding day, the birth of your first child, and Yom Kippur all loom large in life’s pantheon, while other days just seem to sweep by.

The big moments in life don’t actually last that long; it’s hard to maintain the intensity. An athletic event is usually over in seconds, while most exams are over within hours. Even the most schlepped out wedding ceremony finishes eventually, and the actual moment of birth is usually quick, no matter how many hours of labor preceded it. Most of us coast to the finish line, and then collapse in an exhausted heap immediately after bursting through the tape.

The holiday of Shavuot is literally translated as the “Festival of Weeks.” It seems like a misnomer; the festival itself is two days (or one, if you’re living in Israel), and the “weeks” refer to the time we’ve spent preparing for the big day. You’d never refer to your wedding as a “Celebration of our 14-Month Engagement,” or the Super Bowl as the “Festival of the Football Season,” so why name this holiday after its preparation period?

The lesson of the Festival of Weeks is that weekdays can become festivals. Unlike the Olympics, where you only get one chance at the gold medal, Jews are granted a never-ending chance at immortality. According to Judaism, you don’t just have a one-time chance for redemption, rather the weeks and days of our life are expected to become festivals of G‑d.

There is a famous quote, “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation,” but the Torah teaches that the preparation itself is an integral, spectacular part of the journey. The days and weeks of our lives are far more than mere stages in our long journey toward a goal, but are unique opportunities to access eternity.

But how do we tap into this rich vein of purpose? Isn’t it natural to invest certain moments with greater gravitas than others? The way to recognize the inherent value of each point in time is to count the days, to fill up each moment of every day with meaning, and then the weekdays will become holidays.

Often, we focus on the future and ignore the here and now. But the lesson of Shavuot is that every moment of every day counts.

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum is spiritual leader of Moorabbin Hebrew Congregation and co-director of L’Chaim Chabad in Moorabbin, Victoria, Australia.
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