Parshat Emor: What We Don’t Do

Parshat Emor: What We Don’t Do
Leviticus 23:21

וּקְרָאתֶ֞ם בְּעֶ֣צֶם ׀ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֗ה מִֽקְרָא־קֹ֙דֶשׁ֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֔ם כׇּל־מְלֶ֥אכֶת עֲבֹדָ֖ה לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֑וּ חֻקַּ֥ת עוֹלָ֛ם בְּכׇל־מוֹשְׁבֹ֥תֵיכֶ֖ם לְדֹרֹֽתֵיכֶֽם׃

On that same day you shall hold a celebration; it shall be a sacred occasion for you; you shall not work at your occupations. This is a law for all time in all your settlements, throughout the ages.

What makes a really good vacation? Though each of us would answer this a little differently, I imagine all of us would agree on one thing: we would not be working. Regardless if a vacation is used for a trip overseas, or a Netflix studded staycation, what sets that time apart as special is less defined by what we do than what we don’t do. We are not checking email, we are not going into the office, we are not tied to the schedule of the work week.

Jewish holidays are like this too. Though each one is a little different from the next, what connects them all is the common thread of stopping work. Sure, on this holiday you eat matzah, this one you sit in a sukkah, this one you blow a shofar, but each one shares the common thread of a break from the work week. At their core, our holidays are all days to stop, to reflect, and to catch our breath.

As we head into Summer, we may start to feel anxiety about our own vacations, fears that we are not using our breaks to their fullest, or not doing enough, or not going enough places. Let the Jewish holidays be a guide. The most important part of any vacation is not what we do, but what we don’t do. It is the profound gift of just being able to stop.