Thursday, October 19, 2006

Holy Times, Social Times

In my last post I claimed that Orthodox Jews spend more than half a year involved in mitzvoth and the associated lifestyle. It might not be obvious to non-Orthodox Jews, so I will spell it out. I’ll do it in terms of a running total, counting a day as 20 hours. Passover, Sukkoth, Shavuoth, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur (21days), plus 2 days erev all these holidays (23 days). Fifty-two shabbusim (75) plus 13 (52x.25) days of ErevSabbus (Friday afternoon) (88). Four fast days plus Purim, I’ll count as two (90 days). Daily prayers, assuming 45 minutes total with no travel time, comes to 10 days (100). I have not counted travel time to and from the synagogue plus the time between mincha and maariv (afternoon and evening prayers). Many Orthodox Jews attend, at least, one service daily in a synagogue, so I think it’s fair to add another 45 minutes (110). I have not counted the special shopping, cleaning, and cooking, the time for blessings and grace, the washing of hands, and most importantly, the time allocated to the study of Torah. I think 10 days (200 hours/year) is a fair number (120).

On to lifestyle. Let’s start with weddings. In a well-defined community, and assuming a reasonable social world and family, (siblings, mechutanim with children, cousins, fellow congregants, friends and acquaintances) it is impossible to go to less than twenty weddings and twenty bar mitzvahs a year. And then there are lechaims/ vorts/sheva beruchos, (engagement and wedding parties) and an occasional upsherin’. Oh, and I forgot about all the circumcisions. So, adding it all up, we’re talking about sixty social events a year minimum, where not to attend is totally out of the question. Assuming, with travel time, five hours per affair, we get 15 days (135). I say five hours an affair because people travel around the country for these events, which can take three days total. People also travel to Israel which is a five day turnaround. So assigning 15 days a year to simchas, is seriously underestimating the total. But I want to be conservative.

Speaking of traveling, I haven’t counted spending time with the many grandchildren, a natural result of large families. I also can’t forget the almost mandatory trip to Israel, Florida, or Switzerland, depending on one’s social group and income. Count it all as 5 days (140). Oops I forgot Chanukah and presents and dreideling and what not. Not to worry. Since its so much fun, it’s a freebie. Besides many assimilated Jews have Chanukah- bush parties. On the down side of life, there is sitting shiva and shiva visits and time spent helping the bereaved and other acts of personal benevolence, 2 days (142). Add in six more days for parlor meetings, fund raisers, banquets, memorials, special lectures, yarchei kalah, tischen, kvitlech, mikveh and everything I left out and we are up to 148 days.

So I exaggerated. I said a half a year, and I’m off by 34 days.

It’s not easy to live in a face to face community, and the world of Orthodoxy is no exception.

The large amount of time spent serving God might also be a factor in the relative difficulties of earning a living. I have not stressed this point because I believe most participants feel they are enriched by all this religious and social activity, and as a result are more efficient and successful in their work. I believe the claim is essentially correct, and that something magical occurs which enables many religious Jews to be financially successful in the capitalist world, even though they are devoting so much time to God and community. It is a mysterious phenomenon, and a topic worthy of further discussion. The puzzle is: How can one give a naturalistic, non theological account, how Orthodox Jews who devote 148 days a year to religion and a special life style earn incomes that are not below average? Working on Sunday is only part of the answer.

The most expensive aspect of the Orthodox life is not the schools or the kosher food or the synagogue dues. It is the opportunity cost of the time spent living la vida Orthodox.


At 2:04 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Guess our social circle is small. We go to nowhere close to that many social events, although we hit a number of brit milahs every years by choice. (I love this type of simcha).

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Baalabus said...

How can one give a naturalistic, non theological account, how Orthodox Jews who devote 148 days a year to religion and a special life style earn incomes that are not below average?

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Does that do it for you?

At 4:48 AM, Blogger mother in israel said...

I think you have to figure that all of those smachot (and I find your estimate fairly accurate) are social activity. Non-Orthodox also have a need for social activities, and they will make time for them in some other way. I am, however, learning how to say no to a lot of these functions, especially if they are a long drive away.

At 11:20 PM, Anonymous mycroft said...

The puzzle is: How can one give a naturalistic, non theological account, how Orthodox Jews who devote 148 days a year to religion and a special life style earn incomes that are not below average?

The sad answer at least to me is that at least in theMO circles those who are not succesful economically drop out. Thus, Orthodoxy has not really expanded the non succesful economically are not welcome. Sometimes Jewish Day Schools make an advance on predicting those who won't be succesful and encourage those to leave by "raising standards" etc.
Note there are only 5 rimes the number ofJews in the world compared to 2000 years ago-peple have been dropping out constantly.
Unfortunately, at least to me we have become a religion of the elite.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sleeping 6hrs/day=30 days. According to your definition of a 20 hour day, there are 438 days in a year. Shabbos can coincide with holidays, people work on chol hamoed, people work on erev chag, not to mention erev erev chag, people go to Israel, Florida, Switzerland on chag. Etc, etc. Furthermore, calculate time working for non-orthodox Jews. 365 days-(104 days of weekend+15 days non-weekend vacation)=261 days. 8 hrs/day= 102.5 24 hour periods.

At 12:25 PM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

mycroft- I find what you say about MO dropping out horrifying, although sephardilady made the same comment a few days ago. If you have a chance, I would appreciate if you would elaborate some on the idea of dropping out. If you need an entire post, I would be glad to extend an invitation to be a guest blogger.

At 12:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the talmud predates this post with this one...Shabbas (89b
Hashem goes to Avrohom at the end of days and says "Your children have sinned"
Avrohom says "Wipe them out for the sake of your name"

So Hashem goes to Ya'akov and says "Your children have sinned"
Ya'akov says "Wipe them out for the sake of your name"

Hashem says to himself "Old men and children have no answers" (or words to that
effect) so he goes to Yitzchok and says "Your children have sinned"

Yitzchok says "My children and not yours? Isn't there a posuk which says
they are the firstborn children of G-d? And anyway how much can they sin?
If you count a normal life as 70 years, then they only can sin 50 years
from 20 up (since sins aren't counted in heaven below age twenty) to 70.
Take away half the nights - spent on sleeping and you are left with 25.
Take away another half for praying, eating and other "essentials" and they
only have 12 and a half years. If you can take that all then good,
if not then split it with me. And if you want me to take it all then remember
that I did offer myself on the altar to you!"


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