Monday, April 09, 2007

The Calendar Conspires Against Us

Pesach in America in 5767: Two sederim, two days of Yom Tov, one regular day of Chol haMoed, erev Shabbos, Shabbos, erev Yom Tov and two more days of Yom Tov.

It’s hard to sustain holiness for so many days. And I’m not even talking about the endless rounds of shopping, cooking and eating. I feel this twice a year – Pesach and the Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot sequence. I know the whole calendar history reason and how, even though we have a fixed calendar, we don’t abandon the customs of our ancestors.

I still feel like the calendar punishes us for not being in Israel.

In his Haggadah, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin mentions how, in exile, even a Jew’s calendar can be taken away. He cites the example of Jews in Russia before they were permitted to emigrate. Their most fervent request from their foreign visitors was for a Jewish calendar, to which they did not have access in Russia, so they would know on which days to celebrate the Yamin Tovim.

But there is another way we Jews in America feel the consequences of living in the calendar of our hosts. We have adapted to life in exile in subtle ways we don’t even notice. For example, today is Sunday. Easter Sunday. So even though it is one of the days I could have done some household shopping, I couldn’t because the vast majority of the country is celebrating their holiday and most stores are closed.

I once had a Catholic secretary. Through working with her, I realized that she got all of her holidays off automatically, while I had to take leave to be off for mine. Admittedly, the fact that it was possible for me to keep the Jewish holidays while working in that job made me a lot better off than many others whose jobs just will not allow for taking time off according to a totally different calendar. Still, I rarely took a real vacation in all those years because I had to use my leave time to fit my Jewish life into a non-Jewish calendar.

Two successive days of yom tov just four days apart. Easter Sunday. Taking precious leave time to enable you to live as a Jew. No mail on Sunday because of the Christian Sabbath. Counting our years according to the major religious event of another religion. Using names of days that have their origins in Norse and Greek and Roman gods. Being constantly reminded that your calendar is not the calendar of the host country.

In how many ways does the calendar of the non-Jew work against us?



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