Labor Day is the last day of summer and the ‘here we go’ before the fall. Coinciding with Elul, this is a day to focus on what makes us get up in the morning with a song and motivation. What’s the work I was destined to do in this world to make it better? Am I doing it? What sort of work wil set me free to be more me?
As to reclaiming the slogan:
Arbeit macht frei– Labor Liberates has sinister memories for many of us. But the expression comes from the title of a novel by German philologist Lorenz Diefenbach, Arbeit macht frei: Erzählung von Lorenz Diefenbach (1873), in which gamblers and fraudsters find the path to virtue through labour. It was adopted in 1928 by the Weimar government as a slogan extolling the effects of their desired policy of large-scale public works programmes to end unemployment. This use of the phrase was continued by the Nazi Party when it came to power in 1933.
Let’s take it back.