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Holiday Season Isn't "Real Life"

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Holidays » General Information » Holiday Information | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Here's another area where Jewish and secular values greatly differ: holidays. Jewish life and "real" life both consist of workdays and holidays -- but a closer examination reveals that besides a superficial semantic relationship, Jewish holidays and secular holidays have very little in common.

Holiday vacation days justify the drudgery of the daily work routine. A 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. This is certainly true regarding the vacation in Hawaii and the winter ski trip. 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!

A closer examination reveals that besides a superficial semantic relationship, Jewish holidays and secular holidays have very little in common
Jewish holidays, however, are not randomly sprinkled through the calendar to provide for relaxation and vacation from Jewish everyday life. According to Chassidic teachings, 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 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.

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, swaying to the High Holiday prayers, braving the elements to eat in the Sukkah, or ecstatically dancing on Simchat Torah -- but who are we really?! 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 Havdalah ceremony which follows the holiday.

Will we? 


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Holidays » General Information » Forbidden Activities

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
The temporary structure in which we are required to dwell for the duration of the holiday of Sukkot. The Sukkah must have at least three walls and its roof consists of unsecured branches, twigs or wooden slats.
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
(Yiddish) A long white garment, normally made of cotton or linen, customarily worn by Ashkenazi married men on Yom Kippur. A kittel is also worn by Ashkenazi men beneath the wedding canopy.
Prayer signifying the end of the Sabbath or Jewish holiday. This "separation" prayer is recited after nightfall over a cup of wine.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.