From the Cantor, Murray Simon
HIGH HOLY DAY THOUGHTS
It’s mid-summer and warm, lazy days abound. However, the dictates of the editors’ request in May for my article for September’s Bat Yam Matters demand that I begin to direct my thoughts away from the lethargy of summer toward the “hectic” holiness of the Yamim N’ra-im (Days of Awe). Looking at this year’s liturgical calendar, Rosh HaShanah will commence on the evening of Labor Day, the first Monday in September!
You might say that the High Holy Days come very “early” this year. However, as I have stated in a previous HHD article, the Jewish New Year is never “early” or “late”. It is always right on time - exactly where it belongs – the first day of the seventh Hebrew month of Tishri as ordained in the Torah (Lev. 23:24). Since our Jewish liturgical calendar is a lunar – not a solar – calendar, the dates for our Jewish holidays and festivals fluctuate from our Gregorian calendar from year to year. However, this year’s date for the beginning of Rosh HaShanah does pose for me an interesting thought.
The Hebrew word for “work” or “labor” is AVODAH. This goes with our concept of Labor Day. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed into law the observance on the first Monday in September as Labor Day - a federal holiday in the United States celebrated to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States. Interestingly, the same Hebrew word, AVODAH, also means “worship”.
So, this connects with the concept of Rosh HaShanah as a special day of worship reflecting on the cycle of life as we celebrate a religious New Year. New beginnings, fresh starts – a day of worship (AVODAH). See, Labor Day and Rosh HaShanah really do go together!
Our daughter, Rebecca, came up with this original “midrash.” She correctly notes that Rosh HaShanah is called (among other names) ”The Birthday of the World” (in our liturgy, “HaYom Harat Olam”). And so, to give birth, one has to go into “Labor.” Wow, another connection between Rosh HaShanah and Labor Day. Way to go, Rebecca!
Toby joins with me in wishing all of you a meaningful and healthy New Year of 5782. Shanah Tovah uM’tukah!
Cantor Murray E. Simon