CLERGY CORNER: “Labor Day” or “La-Bore Day?”

Posted on 04 September 2014 by LeslieM

Labor Day just came and went and many of us are right back where we were before, at work!

So, you might be wondering, what does Jewish tradition say about work? Let me give you just a few examples.

For those of you who are struggling, working overtime, working two jobs, for those of you who come home achy and exhausted from heavy labor, and for those of you who are under constant stress in the workplace, this line from the Talmud might be of interest to you. It says, “To earn a living can be as hard as to part the Red Sea.” (Talmud: Pesahim, 118a)

Also in the Talmud (Kiddushin), we read, “Not to teach your son to work is like teaching him to steal.”

And there is an old adage that says, “The hardest work is being idle.” And you will have to pardon the pun here, but I simply can’t resist telling you that if you disagree with this statement, you just might be an “idle worshipper.” (Feel free to groan … LOL).

I read a story many years ago from the works of Psychoanalyst Morris Mandel. As I recall, it tells of a young woman who has a most unusual job. She sits in a store window all day with one of those old potter wheels where one foot sits on a pedal that must keep a good and constant rhythm going up and down while the other foot rests flat on the floor throughout the work day.

A customer watches in fascination for a while and goes over to the woman at the potter’s wheel and says, “Your foot must get awfully tired having to move up and down so rapidly all day long.”

To which the laborer responds, “No, it’s not the foot that works that’s tired …it’s the foot that just sits there; it’s the foot that is idle.”

Indeed for some of us, idleness just might be, as my Christian Colleague would say, “The Devil’s Work.” And whenever I hear that, I can’t help but picture Flip Wilson using his famous comedic excuse, “The Devil made me do it.”

On Labor Day weekend, many of you may have gotten to travel. Many of you might also have to travel on business during the year. When I was growing up, United Airlines had a wonderful advertising slogan that said, “Fly the friendly skies of United.”

But nowadays, instead of being united in the skies, it seems that many just have too much idle time on their hands. And so it was that two passengers recently thought of themselves and of no one else and, in the midst of the idleness sitting on a plane for hours, they both lost their cool.

One was using a device, a knee defender that makes it impossible for the person sitting in front of you to lean their seat back. He refused to remove it when a complaint was made and that is when the other passenger lost it as well and threw a cup of water in the other’s face. Both will argue that they were in the right, but they both had too much time on their hands and they were both wrong. On top of that, their childish behavior led to everyone else being delayed.

Drink not from the bread of idleness,” lest it lead you to sin. Keep busy with your labor and with Mitzvoth and you will not become an “idle worshipper.”

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach. The Temple is located one block South of Hillsboro Blvd. on Military Trail. Come by and see how warm and haimishe this Congregational Family is. Better yet, become a part of our family!

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