Labor Day, 2009
1 א

Temple Ahavat Shalom

Labor Day Weekend, 2009

2 ב
Deuteronomy 24:14-15
You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy,
whether he is one of your brothers,
or one of the strangers who are in your land inside your gates;
At [the end of] his day you shall give him his wages,
nor shall the sun go down upon it;
for he is poor, and his life depends upon it;
lest he cry against you to Adonai and it be a sin for you.
[translation by Artscroll, adapted]
3 ג
Jeremiah 22:13-17
He who builds his house with unfairness
and his upper chambers with injustice,
who makes his fellow man work without pay
and does not give him his wages,
who thinks:
"I will build me a vast palace with spacious upper chambers,
provided with windows, paneled in cedar, painted with vermilion!"
Do you think you are more a king because you compete in cedar?
Your father ate and drank and dispensed justice and equity --
then all went well with him.
He upheld the rights of the poor and needy --
then all was well.
That is truly heeding Me -- declares the Eternal.
But your eyes and your mind are only on ill-gotten gains,
on shedding the blood of the innocent,
on committing fraud and violence.
[based on JPS translation]
4 ד
Malachi 3:5
But [first] I will step forward to contend against you,
and I will act as a relentless accuser
against those who have no fear of Me:
Who practice sorcery,
who commit adultery,
who swear falsely,
who cheat laborers of their hire,
and who subvert the cause of the widow, orphan, and stranger,
said the God of Hosts.
5 ה
Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra 10a
R. Meir used to say:
"The critic [of Judaism] may bring against you the argument, ‘If your God loves the poor, why does your God not support them?’
If so, answer him, ‘So that through [through acts of tzedakah] we may be saved from the punishment of Gehinnom [Hell].’
[Hartman translation]
6 ו
kei D’Rabbi Eliezer, Horev 24

Rabbi Pinchas said that they did not have enough bricks to build the city and the tower [of Babel]. What did they do?They would make bricks and count them, like an artisan, until they had built the tower to a height of seven levels. ...

If a man fell down and died, no heed was given to him. But when a brick fell down, they stopped work and wept, saying, “Woe unto us! When will another be brought up in its stead?”

When Abraham son of Terach passed by and saw them building the city and the tower, he cursed them in the name of his God: “Oh God, confound their speech!”

[AJWS translation]

7 ז
Marge Piercy, “To Be of Use,” Circles on the Water, (New York: Knopf, 1982.)
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals bouncing
like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves,
an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done,
again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge in the task,
who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in
or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies,
clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn,
are put in museums but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real