Judaism is filled with “breaks”. The holiest day in the Jewish calendar is Shabbat, and that is a day entirely dedicated to doing nothing. So do we need more breaks?
If you ask many Jewish people, what they really want is a break from Judaism.
Last month, I attended the first national conference of Birthright Israel Next. An extension of the famous (some would say infamous) organization that funds trips for Jewish college students to Israel. The goal of Next: to help young Jews expand their connection to Israel, deepen their commitment to Jewish life and to form a Jewish community.
In a gorgeous hotel in New Orleans, I hung out with Jewish activists from around the country. These are people who spend every day of their life working on making Jewish life relevant to their peers. And what I learned, more than anything from these people, is that Judaism can be really tiresome.
“By the time Shabbat arrives, I don’t want to do anything Jewish”, said one woman. She spends all day in a JCC office. Her break: hanging out with her non-Jewish friends. “Doing Jewish” every day just sucks the energy right out of her.
If anyone would want a secular holiday from the Jewish tradition, it would be this group. But when I asked most of these people what they were doing for Spring Break, many said they were going on “service work” and “alternative break” trips: giving up Spring Break to go to places like Haiti and Africa to help build communities. Others were just planning on going home, to visit family.
It seems this is the power of Judaism: to take something like Spring Break, the ultimate excuse to destroy your spirit (neshama) through drugs, booze and promiscuity, and turn it into an opportunity for havurah (community) and repairing the world (tikkun olam).
To this I say, “Am Yisroel Chai”: long live the Jewish people!