Why should we observe any holiday — let alone Memorial Day — a federal holiday in the United States for mourning the U.S. military personnel who have died while serving in the United States armed …?

Historic dates, like stepping stones, create a footpath through our heritage. Experienced by one generation and recalled by those to come, it is through these annual recollections that our heritage is honored. Before 1971, Washington’s Birthday was one of nine US holidays celebrated on specific dates, which – year after year – fell on different days of the week. Then came the tinkering of the Ninetieth US Congress in 1968. Determined to create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays, Congress voted to shift three existing holidays to Mondays and expanded the number further by creating one new Monday holiday – Columbus Day. Washington’s Birthday was uprooted from its fixed February 22 date and transplanted to the third Monday in February, followed by Memorial Day being relocated from the last day in May to the last Monday in May. The newly created holiday – Columbus Day – was positioned on the second Monday in October. (C. L. Arbelbide, Washington’s Birthday, www.archives.gov)

What is the Jewish approach to holidays?

In contrast to the establishment of historic holidays, which can be “arbitrarily” positioned or moved to accommodate longer weekend vacations, the Jewish calendar does not merely “honor” heritage. The Shabbat and festival days themselves are our heritage – infused with extraordinary intrinsic holiness, spirituality, and the opportunity for tremendous personal growth. The goal of the Morasha series on the Jewish Calendar is to explore the meaning and observance of Shabbat and the Jewish festivals – natural and propitious occasions for all Jews to connect to their heritage.

Click here for the Introduction to the Morasha Jewish Calendar: Holiness in Time.

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