Labor Day: Rav Avigdor Miller on “The More Labor The Better”

Q: Isn’t the added leisure time in modern society a sign that the generations are improving because it means that Hashem trusts us to do better things with our free time?

A: Isn’t the fact that we have more leisure time today a sign min hashomayim that we’re better because it means that we’re more capable of using our leisure time?

And the answer is – now you might condemn me for these words but I’m not going to back out no matter what you think. I’ll tell you anyhow. I say it was a big mistake when they started instituting limited hours for laborers. It was an error because all they did was to slow down production. America was once the leader in the world’s industry. Today, America is being shouldered out by other countries.

You know that Japan is flooding America with products. Just look at the tape recorders wherever you are. They’re all Japanese; which means millions of Americans are deprived of opportunities because of that and because of everything else that’s also being manufactured abroad.

The same thing happened in Great Britain; in England they made that tragic mistake. They tied themselves up because it was a trade union government that gave so many privileges for the workers that they slowed down their production and today England is one of the worst producers. And they’re being shouldered out.

And therefore, the fact that it happened doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. The fact is that when a man comes home early from work and he has a lot of legal holidays, there’s more time for him to injure himself. He’ll look for unlawful pleasures.

I remember the good old days when people came back Saturday late from work. The gentile workman came back late Saturday from work. He had his pay with him and he came back late. He went into his home, he ate supper, got drunk, fell asleep and he woke up in the morning and he went to church. And Monday morning he was back on the job. Legal holidays were very few. Very few legal holidays. In those days, they didn’t have Veteran’s Day yet. They didn’t have a lot of these days that were instituted later. And it was better for them. They lived much longer. They had less heart failures. You have to know when a man works, work is a prophylactic. Work is vitamins. Work is a lifesaver. You don’t realize. גדולה מלאכה. Melacha, work is a lifesaver for people.

But of course what I’m saying is not the modern idea and therefore people will condemn me for that; but I say it anyhow. I say it’s a big mistake. And I repeat what I always say, that every time there’s a legal holiday a thousand more gentiles get killed on the highways who would have lived had it not been a legal holiday. Because there’s more opportunity, more leisure time to commit mayhem on each other; more speeding on the highways and more collisions. There’s more opportunity to go to low places, to dives, and to experience narcotics.

And therefore, it’s the same story. Leisure is not good; it’s a curse.

Why is Hashem giving it to us? Because it’s a punishment. It’s a punishment! Pay attention to that. And we’re suffering the results of leisure. We’re suffering very much. It would be a great blessing if we became once more an industrious and frugal nation like we were in the olden days. Then we’d be healthier and more moral. People turn to wickedness, to immorality only because of leisure time. הבטלה מביאה לידי זימה – leisure brings to immorality.

Of course, the frum Jews benefit. The more leisure they have – for the frum Jew, that’s how it’s supposed to be – the more they can go to shul, the more they can learn. So there is a benefit there. And it could be that’s one of the factors, that it happened for the sake of the frummeh; but it’s not enough because even the frummeh are enjoying the leisure in ways that are not entirely intended by Hakodosh Boruch Hu.

And therefore, don’t think it’s a blessing.

TAPE # 269 (June 1979)

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