“For myself I found that the occupation of a day-laborer was the most independent of any… The laborer’s day ends with the going down of the sun, and he is then free to devote himself to his chosen pursuit, independent of his labor; but his employer, who speculates from month to month, has no respite from one end of the year to the other.” (Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond)
First published in 1854, Thoreau’s classic Walden Pond relates its author’s famous experiment in simple living. Thoreau hoped to “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life”; and so he eschewed all means of earning a livelihood which would impinge upon his thoughts and leisure time. To achieve his goal, Thoreau worked as a simple laborer, avoiding the stress that would inevitably accompany more lucrative employment.
As modern orthodox Jews, we generally do not have Thoreau’s luxury of choosing “nine to five” jobs. The costs of living in our community – including day school, summer camp, and all of the extra expenses that are a part of Jewish living – demand that we pursue careers that follow us home from work. And so, like so many other Americans, we “relax” on our living room couches with our laptops. Our personal spaces are transformed into “multipurpose” rooms, in which every space in our home is made to accommodate our work; no room is left free from the shackles of the office. We are day laborers, certainly; but we are also evening laborers and weekend laborers, as well.
Is there any way out? Have we any hope of freeing ourselves from the constant pressures of work?
Rabbi Yirmiyah stated: “Making use of the light of a Chanukah candle is […]