Israeli Hebrew has its humorous sides. One of the challenges it faced when other countries latched on to the phrase, “Have a good day!” was how to render this into Hebrew. Result? The greeting, Yom Tov!
Naturally this was seen as amusing by the traditionalist community for whom Yom Tov has always meant one of the festivals of the Jewish calendar.
Look at this week’s Torah portion and you get the catalogue of them, not to speak of the other chaggim that have been added over the centuries. Can you imagine life without Pesach, Shavu’ot, Sukkot, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur… or Chanukah, Purim, Yom Atzma’ut and Tu BiSh’vat?
Without knowing it, a good case for the Jewish festivals was put by Hugh Mackay in the Anzac issue of the Sydney Morning Herald. Mackay wrote, “Like every human society, we crave occasions that mark and define us in some way. Ritual celebrations are as important to societies as they are to families and individuals. They are significant acts of affirmation that help define our sense of identity” (SMH, 23 April, 1999).
Read these words and you feel good about our Jewish celebratory calendar. But remember: pleasant as the festivals are as sources of physical and material enjoyment, each stands for a spiritual and ethical principle.
Prepare for the festival spiritually and intellectually and it will really become a “significant act of affirmation”.