“May the delight of the Eternal our God be upon us, and, indeed, may the work of our hands prosper!”
These words conclude Psalm 90, a biblical call for a life of wisdom and contentment. And this passage refers to the concept of m’lachah, or the labor in which we engage to support ourselves and our families, and which provides us personal dignity and strength.
Sometimes our work defines us. As a Rabbi, I certainly become associated not only with my wonderful synagogue, but also the Jewish tradition that is centuries old.
My task to make this ancient tradition live for all our members.
Sometimes we define our work. People of creativity and flexibility who employ a set of skills or run their own businesses need to make split-second decisions about accomplishing their work.
They may be known for the consistent quality of their work, yet their “product” may be quite different with each and every contract or assignment.
And sometimes we have no creative influence over the work we do: Factory workers, administrative personnel, stay-at-home parents or those who serve others for hourly wages have rigid work assignments that seem to change little or require few creative flourishes.
Yet they feel no less proud of their labor, nor do they refrain from adding originality and quality to their work.
Each of us contributes mightily to the collective labor of the world, something that we declare on Labor Day each year. But as many holidays have become, this annual observance has devolved into a flurry of retail sales and a rush to get in ‘just a bit more summer.’
As we approach Labor Day this coming September 7, let us recall that each one of us contributes significantly to the health of our society through the labors of our hands, and also that God delights in the work we do. Outside the home, or in it; on behalf of many or few: Whatever we do adds to the quality of the world, and we should be content with work well done.
May God, indeed, prosper the work of our hands!