An easy fast.

Another Yom Kippur here in the galut, the exile. Another fast spent surrounded by the sounds and smells of people who have no idea what I’m doing, or why, another year in which I don’t get to hear the blessed hush of a nation’s highways and byways silenced by a minimal respect for the religious dictates of the day. Another year as a Diaspora Jew.

I don’t like fasting — I like eating too much to like fasting. And I am, aside from anything else, a big crybaby. I don’t deal as well as I would like with discomfort. But, if I could like fasting, I liked it in Tel Aviv. There is a magical something that comes over a busy city silenced by a shared and ancient act. Not everyone fasts, of course, but on that one day out of the year, the vast majority of Israel’s majority (secular Jews) bow to the needs of the spirit. There is no (publicly audible) music, there are no cars, there is no picnicking — if you eat, you do it behind closed doors. I miss that.

But here I am, another year away. I am where I chose to be, and I chose to be here for good reason.

And I am fasting, not because others see and understand, but because, for reasons I cannot name, it is meaningful to me. (I tried not to one year — oy. That did not go well). I join my people when I do this, and I say to God: heneni – I’m here. And the hunger and the self-imposed deprivation sharpens the mind (some years) and focuses the spirit. I just don’t understand how it all adds up. I don’t know why it becomes a driving need to do an unpleasant thing that I honestly think matters very little to God. I suppose I do think, though, that what matters to God is that I be honest about who I am — and who I am, should fast. And so I fast.

If you fast, I wish you an easy one, tzom kal. If you don’t, I’ll just wish you another hearty shana tova — the year is still fresh, and I hope it greets you well!

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If you want to think a little bit more about fasting, and what it can mean, you might want to look into Ta’anit Tzedek: The Jewish Fast for Gaza. I confess that I haven’t signed up, because I know I won’t stick with it — but any Jewish effort to draw attention to the insupportable suffering of the people of Gaza is a worthy effort. Take a look at the list of rabbis involved — you might see someone you know!

And finally, there will be no post on Monday, as I will be praying and fasting and no doubt wishing I could eat — but hopefully also sorting through the larger questions, too. I  will return to you on Tuesday, a wiser woman, I’m sure!

1 Comment

  1. CollegeBookworm

     /  September 25, 2009

    I was raised in a family that did not wish anyone an easy fast, because a fast isn’t meant to be just easy. It needs to be more than that, or why would we be fasting?

    So I wish you a meaningful fast, and a Shabbat Shalom before that.

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