To Work or Not to Work

Do you go to work on Yom Kippur? Why or why not?

In the Secular movement, we see three distinct camps – yes, no and it depends. Those who decide to go to work explain their viewpoint this way:

I think Yom Kippur is a good idea. It’s useful to examine your life for the past year and make a plan for how to do better. It’s a good idea to give up your grudges and forgive people. It’s a good idea to take a specific time to do these things. But it doesn’t have to be exactly on the date that everyone else does it. I’m not attached to the particular date – I can do this any time. I don’t need to take a day off work, lose a day of vacation (or a day of pay) when I don’t really care about the specific date.

Then we have those who modify the above depending on what’s going on in their Jewish community. They say:

When I didn’t have anywhere to go on Yom Kippur, I worked. It seemed either wasteful, silly or hypocritical to take a day off for a Jewish holiday and not do anything related to that holiday. When I’m a member of a community that holds a Yom Kippur observance, I go to it. That makes taking the day off worthwhile.

Finally, there are those who take the day off no matter what. One reason they give is:

I do not go to work on Yom Kippur. When you are a member of a minority culture, you need to work to make sure people respect that culture. By not going to work on Yom Kippur, I’m teaching people that Jewish holidays deserve as much respect as other religious holidays.

Another reason some people choose to take Yom Kippur off from work could be stated this way:

I do not work on Yom Kippur because it’s important to me that I observe this holiday on the actual date, with other members from my Jewish community. Even though this community is secular, I still enjoy the shared experience of observing the cultural aspects of Yom Kippur together on the day itself.

Where do you stand on the issue?

2 thoughts on “To Work or Not to Work

  1. I have shifted over the years. Seminal to my position was a lecture by Dov Noy (Prof. of folk-literature at Hebrew University) who argued that what makes Jewish literature Jewish is reference to Jewish time. (“It was an hour before shabes”, “It was during the 10 days” etc)
    I think that extends to Jewish identity and activity in all its forms.

    One does not need to mark Yom Kiper to be reflective, introspective etc.
    One certainly does not need to mark Yom Kiper in a religious manner.
    But if you want to mark Jewish events Jewishly, you need to do so in Jewish time.

    Otherwise – hold your Pesakh seder on Christmas day. Everyone else has a family celebration that day, and its a public holiday so it won’t interfere with work.
    But it just isn’t Pesakh!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *