Do You Live to Work or Work to Live?

The upcoming Jewish holiday of Shavuot (the Festival of Weeks, which commences on Saturday evening) commemorates the Hebrews receiving of the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, at Sinai some 3300 years ago. On that seminal date, a series of commandments were issued that would frame key elements of monotheistic thought, spiritual observance, and social interaction for centuries to come.

The Sinaitic experience was the culmination of a seven-week period that began with the Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt (commemorated by Passover). That physical birth, so to speak, of the Hebraic nation was followed by its spiritual naissance at the foot of the mountain.

It is noteworthy that the seven-week period that separates Passover from Shavuot is a period of counting, known as Counting of the Omer. During these 49 days, the Torah proscribes a steady, upward count, leading up to Shavuot.

In explaining this unusual “bridge” between the two holidays of Passover and Shavuot, Jewish commentators explain that Shavuot serves as the true goal for the corporeal freedom secured during the Exodus. The physical freedom achieved by the Hebrews was meaningful only if it also promoted spiritual freedom, as expressed by the spiritual nature of Sinai.

For this reason, we count. Counting symbolizes the notion of working upwards towards a goal. When the young Hebrew nation left Egypt, they were hardly of the spiritual standing to received God’s word. They needed to engage in a spiritual boot camp to quickly transform themselves into spiritual receptacles for His word.

So often, we encounter people (including ourselves) who seem to get their priorities confused. They think that material bounty and business success is a goal in and of itself. They pour their hearts and souls into their work only to discover that it lacks the capacity to deliver true fulfillment.

Life is a balance between achievement and fulfillment. We need to remain ever-focused on the things that bring us deeper satisfaction and purpose. Whether that’s religion, family, community, charitable giving or something else, Shavuot reminds us that we need to prioritize our true purpose and make sure that all other endeavors become the engine to our deeper calling.

For all of you who are celebrating I wish you a chag sameach/happy holidays,