The Soul of Labor Day. What Are We Celebrating?

Do you live to work or work to live? If someone asks you who you are, do you show them your business card? Is your identity defined by your work? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? But many us have become so consumed by our jobs and careers, that who we are has become an extension of what we do. Shouldn’t we be directing our vehicles and instruments where to go instead of them telling us where to go? Who is the captain of your ship?

Let’s take this a step further: Is labor a positive thing? We who have grown up with work as a cultural norm may think that this is how it always was. That is not the case at all. Work, as we know it is a relatively recent development. For much of ancient and medieval history, work has been hard and degrading. Indeed, according to the Bible, work-labor is a curse: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.” The Greeks and later the Romans believed that manual labor was for slaves. The Greek word for work was ponos, taken from the Latin poena, which meant sorrow.

So as we return to work after Labor Day, how are we to look at our jobs and careers? Are they a curse, a necessary evil? When we go to work in the need to support ourselves are we capitulating to the overwhelming forces of materialism? Are we doomed to sell our souls to a corrupt world that “consumes its inhabitants”?

Please join Rabbi Simon Jacobson as he drills down into the belly of the beast, and uncovers the deeper soul of labor and work. Discover that the challenge is not our professions and businesses on their own, but rather with realigning and focusing our work toward a higher calling. The tension between matter and spirit is ultimately best resolved not by escaping the world of labor for the world of spirit, nor by surrendering to work as a curse, but by spiritualizing the material and revealing the deeper sparks embedded in our work. Learn how to become the captain of your ship.

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