I submitted this to one of my fave Jewish sites & realized that everyone is just done & over with this Day. We’ve switched gears for Sukkot, & then on to the winter holidays! I’m posting here for my own posterity. 🙂
It is just me, arriving, sitting, breathing. I am vulnerable. There is no mask, no primer, no coverup, no sugary drink in my bag. I’m raw. I’m here. Today we go without what we think we need.
So began my fast and reflection. Hours after Yom Kippur has concluded, I am reflecting, sitting over laptop in the dark.
I didn’t select meals, cook, heat, or wash dishes. I didn’t hunt for the perfect snack in the cabinet, or along the lazy Susan. Fasting on Yom Kippur was a reprieve, a whole day to let my body process something else—the regrettable nature that lays the groundwork for mistake-making, refusal to forgive, the desire to get even, or feel jealous.
There is something worth fasting for. Pushing through caffeine-withdrawal headaches, fatigue, and the habit of needing food by a certain hour has its benefits. Not only did I make it to the other side with bagels, coffee, and a regal spread, but I was able to appreciate, even delight in certain aspects along the way.
Sure, I’d love to have eaten a scone or kick back a latte, but I was so aware of a really fantastic shift. My body didn’t need to expend an extraordinary amount of energy to break down food and convert it to energy. Instead of too many tummy growls, I felt a “wheeee!” for the new-found energy to search my soul for the old things, the soot, the soap-buildup, the overall “gunk”.
Yom Kippur challenges us bring up the hard stuff, the hidden moments, the calling our neighbor, other moms, our spouses and partners, to apologize. It is disarming, somewhat humiliating, and good.
I see an exchange between sisters, sitting there in synagogue, while turning pages. Two gorgeous girls dresses in white frocks shuffle to their row . One sneakily kicks the other. ”Aha”, I thought, “this is sin”. It can be dressed-up, but at the end of the day, it sneaks in and wants to kick our shins. Oh, man. Isn’t that the sneaky nature of sin? We kick our sisters and hide it with a smile and a good hair day.
There is a tradition I embrace. When reciting the Al Chet, the major litany of offenses and sins, I knock on my heart, waking it up to feel hurt. With my raised eyebrows, inherited and inherent sarcasm, I hurt people left and right, deftly, and without knowledge. I am snide. I am insecure. I am human. I want to be praised even if it means I’m part of gossip.
I become accustomed to violence and lies, if even on that Netflix show. I speak with thorns instead of honey. I hit my heart as custom for every sin, every offense named. “For the sin of”…and on Yom Kippur, it is apparent, we as families, we as impatient bodies, we as busy, hurt, complex people, we sin.
There are patterns which would love to drag us down and make us believe we cannot forgive or be forgiven. The belief that we are quite separate than another, and more important. It is how I might judge another woman based on her appearance or vocabulary. How I’ll walk a bit stooped after comparing, maybe. Sin belittles and captures. It is the nemesis of Freedom.
The world and its marketing departments would love us to rely on our flesh and our heels and our calendars and our gorgeous handbags and dream haircuts and just-right kids and enviable homes and our inner disgusts and that carafe of wine and another espresso more than our need for true examination and a Holy G-d, but what happens when I really sit down to examine my heart instead of comparing? What happens when I fast? What is my response when I turn-off the signals and all of that rackety background?
I tap my heart to awaken. I’m not alone. Each terrible, common offense swirls around on our tongues. I rise with others to say a prayer in mourning, as we miss wives, sons, or grandparents. I hear tired but gorgeous voices reviving.
Most days I apply some kind of makeup, at least chapstick or slick gloss, but definitely mascara. Not adorning myself with earrings, not clipping on some eye-catching strand of beads, or just right gold chain, freed me up. I could have sat in potato bag sackcloth. I could arrive in a splotch of mud, matted and caked bedhead. That would conjure or more rightly reflect the need for healing.
Forget the need to impress. No one is any better in this state of assessing the heart. We are, instead, frail, weak in our no-coffee, ocular headaches, pounding behind our eyes. Each of us is terrific at miming happiness and being put-together, but keep someone from caffeine, breakfast, lunch, and a bevy of snacks? Look out. This is humanity trying to function differently. We are grateful for the basics of family and heritage, back in step, back where we started from, as a people in need.
We kiss the torah. We say the Amidah. We ground ourselves not in fashion, not in picture-worthy meals, but in each moment flickering in our eyes. This is beauty. This is getting right again. This is what it is to arise.