Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Nobody Home

Lots of people are complaining that House of Representatives is off for the Jewish Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah. I’m one of them. In a country where we Jews are forever defending the secular nature of our democracy, we should be outraged that Congress is taking Rosh haShanah off. If Jewish members of Congress take the day off, fine. But to close the House is absurd. And do so for two days? All the more insane!

The only reason we have two days for our New Year is that ancient Jews hedged their bets when it came to calendar accuracy. The Bible says that Rosh haShanah is the first day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. (Yes, having a new year in the seventh month is also insane, but this was just one of God’s little jokes.) Since the only way to tell when a new month began was to send witnesses out to look at the moon, one could never be certain when the first of any month actually was. So to be safe we celebrate two days of most holidays. But that was then. We’ve actually landed a few golfers on the moon, do we still have to pretend like we don’t know what day it is?

And why focus on Rosh haShanah, anyway? Yom Kippur is more important. Why not take Yom Kippur off? And, technically speaking, Shabbat is more important still, so why not take Saturdays off? If I wanted to live in a country that closed down for the Jewish holydays I’d move to Israel.

Then again, the country isn’t closed. Banks are open, though they have no money. Schools are open, though our minds are increasingly closed. The mail is still being delivered, though the flood of offers to open new credit card accounts is slowing. Even the Senate is open, though without John McCain they can barely function. So, in fact, it is only the House that is closed. What are Gentile Representatives doing on Rosh haShanah? Trolling synagogues for Jewish votes?

And what about Moslem Americans, and Hindu and Buddhist Americans? Shouldn’t we close for their holy days as well? How about the Native American peyote church? Shouldn’t our legislators be eating peyote to honor the First Americans?

As long as there is an American who belongs to a religion that has a holy day I think Congress should close in honor of it. Add these religious days off to Congress’ already limited work schedule and legislators wouldn’t be in Washington more than a couple of weeks a year at most. This could be a good thing. The less time they have to make law the less time they have to make a mess of this country.

So let me offer a hearty l’Shana Tova to the House of Representatives. And I look forward to them fasting next year on Ramadan, and taking off this coming May 23 for the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab. And a daily dose of peyote just might be what Congress needs after all. It might even be covered by their most generous healthcare plan.

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