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Transatlantic Blog

Does God hate Mondays?

Garfield became one of the most beloved cartoon characters of his time by saying what so many Americans felt: “I hate Mondays.” Indeed, there is biblical evidence that God did not view Mondays as “good” … and Jewish commentators say this has insights about our work, participating in God’s creation, and even our nation’s economic system.

Rabbis who pored over the creation account in Genesis chapter 1 noticed a curious thing: God pronounces each of the seven days of creation “good” once – except for the second and third days, or Monday and Tuesday. Even God Himself did not call Monday “good.” However, Genesis uses the word “good” twice on the third day.

Rabbis and exegetes searched for the reason behind this apparent divine snub. One of these seekers ranks among history’s most influential religious teachers.  

Rashi, or Solomon ben Isaac (Shlomo Yitzhaki), wrote commentaries that “have become a foundational element of Jewish education to this day” and “are often taught side by side with the Torah.” The eleventh- and twelfth-century rabbi turned his attention to the Eternal’s unequal distribution of blessings:

Now why does it not say, “that it was good” on the second day? Because the work involving the water was not completed until the third day, although He commenced it on the second day, and an unfinished thing is not in its fullness and its goodness; and on the third day, when He completed the work involving the water and He commenced and completed another work, He repeated therein “that it was good” twice (sic): once for the completion of the work of the second day and once for the completion of the work of that [third] day.

Put another way, God honors productivity. Two days’ work were accomplished on the third day of creation (“Tuesday”), so that day received a double blessing.

“The reason for the difference is G-d is teaching us that we get rewarded based on what we accomplish,” wrote one commentator, who cited this and other teachings to argue that socialism is incompatible with Judaism. Judaism teaches “according to one’s effort is his reward.” Later rabbinical commentary held that this phrase, which originally applied to studying religious texts, holds true for all good works. (Christianity has a similar injunction.)

Judaism reveals the divine significance of human productivity in ways ranging from the mystical to the mundane. One Midrash story recounts that Rabbi Akiva offered a general either a pile of grain or a loaf of bread and asked which he would rather eat. Some schools of Judaism tie good works to the dawn of the Messianic age. Kabbalists believe that at creation a series of “Holy Sparks” – God’s light filtered into a form humanity can receive – were placed inside creation. Each time someone performs a good work (mitzvot), the “Holy Sparks are redeemed, purified, and ascend to Above.” Some teach that, once the entire amount implanted in creation has been purified, “the Messianic Period must begin.”

The opening chapter of the Bible, which details God’s work, tells us humanity can participate in the ongoing redemption and multiplication of His creation. Genesis chapter one teaches that all honest work brings blessings, and Mondays are a blessing if we make them fruitful. The human race does this by engaging a market need, soliciting investment, and maximizing productivity of a licit good. Collectivism, which diminishes productivity and equalizes earthly rewards, inhibits this divinely appointed role.

Socialism turns whole epochs of history into an unproductive, never-ending, blessing-deficient Monday.

(Photo credit: Aaron Jacobs. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History summa cum laude from Ohio University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.