So I am driving my old Benz to the Ted Stevens Monument to Alaska Pork (aka the airport) around Rosh Hashana and I am hit with Eddie Grant’s Electric Avenue refrain, “And then we’ll take it higher” and I am rocking out. The buzz diminishes as I drive in circles trying to put the car in the correct lane at the correct terminal in the bleary rain-soaked darkness (bear with me as I hope this is allegorical) and I turn apparently so serious that having picked up my passenger I virtually shove the recent donnybrook over the Yom Kippur Cook Inlet Conference cross-country race in my unsuspecting passenger’s face.
My passenger, a family gadfly who supports the Seventh Day Adventist perspective of legally challenging religious discrimination seems ecstatic over the turn of events (ASD adopting a short list of holidays that will be safe from school scheduled events) . I, a recovering Funkaholic who has been lost in the Kafka-esque twists and turns of modern transport, am not so sure.
“Hold on!” I screwed my courage to the sticking place and lurched forward, “Is Rosh Hashana, or even Yom Kippur even mentioned in anyone’s versions of the the Ten Commandments? But even Justic Roy Moore knows that the Ten Commandments (or some version thereof) states (or approximates to some degree): Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.”
This was a low blow between us as the Adventist position is (and it seems to me that they have it right) that my Shabbat, the Shabbas of my Ashkenazi forebears and the Jews who predated them to my earliest known ancestor, Aaron (the borher of the Moses guy) the first Jewish High Priest, is what we now call Saturday. Sunday, as it turns out, was the Lord’s Day, an invention of post-apostle orthodox (little “o”) church to allow distinction between Jews who were Jews and Christians who were Jews and those wishing to be Chistian without being Jews (not as simple as the plot of Dogma but typical of things Christian it seems.)
This was also a sneaky shot because as a Jew I knew that according to Rambam, a famous Rabbi, it is a mitzvah (one of the 613 Jewish laws covered in the Torah) to refrain from work on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as well as to do so on the Sabbath (the “Ten Commandments” of Judge Moore being a later invention composed of some more generic ethical statements found in Exodus and Deutoronomy.)
“Enough with the religion lesson!”, you say (my friend suggests I give it a break and watch the road…..) Sure, but my point is that there are dozens and dozens of days on which Jews, for example, are instructed not to work. Yet it would seem that our young Ari (Hebrew for Lion, often used to identify cultural heroes) regularly violated the Sabbath, a holiday in my mind more important than Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur.
The Sabbath is part of a process, a cultural practice that would have us, whether or Friday, Saturday, Sunday or what have you, stop what we are doing and reflect on the world around us and our place in it. This is not as covenient as dropping into the synagogue 4 times a year or attending High Mass twice a year. Even the requisite pilgrimage stands as co-equal to weekly prepare as a pillar of Islam.
We do religion like we do the 7-11, a convenience store where we pick up salvation like we buy a slurpy. [You weren’t expecting a rant, were you?] In stead of using religion to engage in the world, we use it as a sword and a shield, to attack those unlike us andprotect us from “cultural relativism (the horrifying concept that someone else might have it right) because we live in an us vs. them world.
For all the good intentions, we still have Blue Laws barring play on Sundays. The new policy can’t possibly keep up with everyone’s important holidays and at some point someone is going to decide that this or that holiday is not important. While there are no eternal consequences of not attending Yom Kippur services we have turned things upside down for one child while entire congregations of Seventh Day Adventists are barred from any interscholastic activities. Seems to be a more enlightened policy would be to distribute events evenly throughout the calendar and to make the calendar religiously neutral (neither of which we are remotely near). Then, when it is as likely for a competition to fall on a Sunday, Wednesday or Saturday we will have made a start. Right now, we have not taken respect for one another higher, we have debased all of ourselves by pandering to the quick stop mentality.