Shabbos and Yom Tov: Are My Horns Showing?

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A big part of what makes Orthodox Judaism so great is the ability to observe Shabbos and Yomim Tovim, which the rituals, customs, and prohibitions inherent, followed correctly, can bring one much closed to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. However, in Chutz La’Aretz, should one attend a non-Jewish school (like university) or work, one will invariably find that certain assignments/exams, or mere attendance is mandatory on such days. Trying to explain why you can’t attend certain events or functions to those with less understanding and therefore minimal religious tolerance is a daunting task. To the non-Jew, or even worse, to the secularized Jew who was barely Bar-Mitzvahed, those days are regular workdays, so why should anyone get special treatment?

In my short work span, I’ve, as it is, likely held more jobs than the number of years I’ve worked. As a result, I’ve worked with everyone from Chasidim to Russians, and then to complete unaffiliated Goyim, and even to secularized Jews who didn’t know about Judaism, and would look at Orthodox Jews in a funny manner. I’ve found that, when working for non-Jews and secular Jews, I would have a difficult time trying to take off for certain holidays. Either I would need to “bank” a certain amount of hours just to take off early on Fridays in the wintertime, as well as take off completely on Yomim Tovim, or I would have to take off personal vacation days.

Personally, I think it’s a bit unfair, and here’s my reasoning why. Countries like the United States and Canada are dominated by X-tianity. Therefore, most places are off on X-mas, New Years, Good Friday, etc., as well as statutory holidays. In the US, days like Martin Luther King day, Columbus day, and Presidents day are taken off, whereas in Canada, Victoria day, Simcoe day, Family day, and Canada day are celebrated. I think that, an ideal solution would be for us Jews to work on the non-Jewish holidays and that we can then take off on our own holidays. But, I don’t think that that will happen, since which clients are open for business on non-Jewish holidays? We’re not living in an ideal world, so there’s no place for ideal values. Besides, business would slow down, if anything.

Although, on the rare occasion, there is that one job where management will be Shomer Torah U’Mitzvos. My first real job out of university was in the Diamond District in Manhattan, working as an IT specialist in a company dominated by Chasidim of many different stripes, save for Lubavitch. There were Satmar, Spinka, and Galanter Chassidim, plus more in the same suite, all getting along throughout the day, making an honest living with which to feed their families. And, I remembered that while working there, I wasn’t clear on what the non-Jewish holidays were, since the company had a special arrangement. We all worked on X-mas and the other non-Jewish holidays, and in return, not only were we allowed to leave early for Shabbos and Yom Tov, but we were also allowed to take off for Chol Hamoed! What a Mechayeh! As well, there was a special cook who made gourmet fish for lunch, as well as a Cappuccino machine. So, we were all ensured the highest level of Kashrus possible, while being able to work undisturbed.

Since working there, as fate would have it, I would find myself working under many different bosses of many different backgrounds. When working for religious Jews, for the most part I’ve had no problem with taking off for Shabbos and Yom Tov. But when working for Goyim, trying to dance through taking off for Shabbos and Yom Tov for the most part has been nothing short of gut-wrenching, believe me. I guess that this is all part of growing up.

Most recently, one of my online Masters courses this semester happens to have an evening online presentation set on Pesach. Since this presentation is to be done in teams, I found it quite the challenge to have the schedule changed to Chol Hamoed Pesach. As well, two of the evenings aren’t possible to take off since one is Erev Shabbos and one is Motzai Shabbos. The one evening of Chol HaMoed that’s possible, as it turns out, precedes Good Friday, so good luck in trying to convince a bunch of non-Jewish students to accommodate when they have these huge plans to take a nice long vacation the day after.

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Speaking to the professor about my quandary, she assured me that, for my situation, I will be assigned a separate assignment, meant for only one student to take, due by a certain date. I thanked her for her understanding, but I still wonder: how much, or rather how brightly, are my horns showing?

I’m sure every person reading this has a “horns showing” story to share. Post it in the comments!

P.S. I’m well aware of the origins that Moshe’s Karnayim, which translate into shinings (of light), can also be translated into horns, hence the common misconception.