Rabbi's Message: Volume 26, No. 2: Sep. 2008 - Elul 5768


Volume 26, No. 2: Sep. 2008 - Elul 5768

Subject: Rabbi's Message: Sep. 2008 - Elul 5768: To Miss School (or Work) or Not

As youngster growing up in a town where 95% of the Jewish community was self-employed, the idea that a Jew would actually go to work on Rosh Hashannah or Yom Kippur was a non-starter. The Main Street landscape included so many Jewish retail establishments, that many of the non-Jewish store owners shut their stores on Rosh Hashannah or Yom Kippur knowing that with the Jewish-owned stores closed, who would go shopping anyhow?

In my years at MITRE, I used to jog with a secular Jew who didn't belong to a synagogue, married out, raised his children as non-Jews; and yet he told me that he always took off Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. MITRE was very accommodating of Jews taking off the High Holydays, at least in part because of the relatively high percentage of Jews there. I accused my jogging partner of opportunism. He insisted that as a secular Jew, Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur evoked memories of his cultural heritage and in taking the days off, he was able to contemplate and reflect on his roots. In retrospect, I agree with him.

I was told a story, perhaps apocryphal, of a small Orthodox Jewish community in down-east Maine. The first generation built the synagogue; the second generation attended the synagogue on Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, but never understood what was happening; the third generation milled around the synagogue on Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur but didn't go in. And the fourth generation is no more.

In our community, we are predominantly on someone else's payroll and to take off for the High Holydays can be difficult. From time-to-time, people have apologized to me that their employer would not give them the time off. But I am more concerned about the message we are teaching our children. When it comes to our major holidays, taking a few days off of school never hurt anybody! And in the era in which we live, nobody is even being penalized for it.

Live our heritage; don't just mill around! And teach the next generation to do the same. Best wishes from Karen and me for a Happy, healthy and prosperous 5769.


Joshua L. Segal

Go Back to the Betenu Home Page