Usually, I write these columns on Sunday evenings, the night before our noon Monday deadline to send the paper to the printer. The CJN offices are quiet then, and I can wander around in desperate search of the right words without interrupting anyone. For the past month, though, that’s been mostly impossible. This year’s Jewish calendar, with its multiplicity of Monday and Tuesday holidays, made sure of that. To be frank, the holiday schedule has wreaked havoc on our publishing schedule. This week’s paper, for example, was put together in about two and a half days, in between the first two and the final two days of Sukkot (The CJN is closed on all Jewish holidays). It’s a testament to the outstanding work of my colleagues that we managed to pull it off (so maybe go easy on sending letters about typos, at least until the middle of October).
In The Sabbath, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work.” Add Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur (described in the Torah as “the Sabbath of Sabbaths”) and Sukkot to the mix – all of which bear similar laws to Shabbat when it comes to work practices – and you might reasonably conclude that this time of year is the least efficient for Jews. These past few weeks, I’ve heard from plenty of Jewish professionals fretting about the lack of time to attend to their work, businesses and studies.
The worst part is when your working life (or, in this case, lack thereof) bleeds into the holidays. You know you’re not supposed to be thinking about looming deadlines or your colleagues and bosses who can’t understand why you’ve been off basically since the beginning of September. You know you should be seriously contemplating the past and the future on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and celebrating with family and friends on Sukkot. But it’s hard to focus as the work piles up. It rarely used to happen to me, but this holiday season, I frequently found myself glancing at the clock, anticipating the precise moment when I could turn my phone back on and check email.
But something Rabbi Daniel Korobkin wrote in The CJN recently has kept me going through this pressure-filled stretch. “I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the clouds in our minds to part every yom tov,” he wrote in a September Rabbi2Rabbi column. “But if we can gain just one more insight while sitting in meditation over the machzor, a book on Judaism or in a class, then it’s time well spent.” I’ve been trying to follow that advice the last few weeks and, I’m happy to report, I think it’s working.
Those little moments of Jewish holiday joy and insight – watching kids’ faces light up as the shofar sounded on Rosh Hashanah, getting the family together to build the sukkah, even the 15 minutes of alone time I managed to wangle during Yom Kippur services – meant a lot. And as for all the work missed, well, let’s be honest, there’ll be plenty of time to catch up – at least until Pesach.