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Why I’m Not Fasting on Yom Kippur

not-mamash-starving

No, I’m really not fasting on Yom Kippur this year. No abstaining from food. No abstaining from water or other liquids. No resorting to halachically (Jewish law-defined) minimum allowable emergency portions. In fact, I intend to eat normally throughout the holiday. No, there is nothing medically wrong with me that would otherwise halachically opt me out of observing the fast. This year, I simply choose not to observe it.

Last Yom Kippur, my shul’s famed rabbi emeritus, Herman Schaalman, advocated at our Kol Nidre service passionately–and not a little shockingly–for jettisoning the entire “afflict your souls” element of the High Holy Days on the grounds that Jews have suffered enough throughout history. He suggested turning the Days of Awe, and especially Yom Kippur, into a time of celebrating humanity. I wasn’t feeling his message that night, but in truth I’ve never gotten the point of the tzom–the 25-hour fast–that marks the day for most Jews (even secular ones.)

For the past three years of my Jewish journey, I’ve tried hard to make sense out of the YK fast, and to perceive my benefit from it. I didn’t make it through my first Yom Kippur fast without vomit and cheating. On my second Yom Kippur fast, I staved off the nausea with midday watering. Both times, though, I grasped for meaning (as, if you read them, the above two linked blog posts painfully show.)

I’ve often wondered why Reform Jews seem to fast so universally. As a denomination we clearly aren’t as pious as the fast’s seemingly universal nature suggests. After all, we don’t see the mitzvot as binding. Our movement is based upon finding one’s personal intersection with the commandments, with Jewish ritual, with religious observance. Reform Jews may be very observant in some areas and not in others, and in a synagogue full of us, those areas rarely always match up.

So why do we, as Reform Jews, blindly observe the commandment to fast on Yom Kippur? It can’t be simply because the Torah says we’ll be “spiritually excised” from our people. After all, if we actually took the bible that literally, we wouldn’t be Reform Jews.

So why is it that on Yom Kippur our synagogues overflow with congregants all of whom make it a point to be very visibly, very painfully not eating?

I’ve asked my fellow congregants and Googled the question for years. The responses I’ve always encountered I’m sure are familiar to most Jews:

  • To take to focus off of ourselves so we can think about others;
  • To help is think about those less fortunate around the world who go hungry every day;
  • To remove the focus from our bodies so we can think about our actions;
  • To remove the focus from our bodies so we can concentrate on repentance;
  • To approach death a little bit in order to better appreciate the gift of life; and of course perhaps the most common Reform Jewish answer
  • Because we always have–my grandparents did it, my parents did it, so I do it, too.

Yet from a Reform Jewish perspective, in the absence of binding commandments, none of the above responses adequately answers the question of why the Yom Kippur fast is Reform Judaism’s biggest–if not only–blind spot. Even as our denominational union underscores that unlike Orthodox Jews we do not take Torah as legally binding, the rabbinical body of our movement suggests that we not make it seem like eating on Yom Kippur is allowable (CCAR Responsum 67) and notes that physical pain is an acceptable part of Yom Kippur observance (CCAR Responsum 151).

One particularly thoughtful answer to the question of whether Reform Jews should fast comes from the About.com Ask the Rabbi page of RebJeff blog Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser. In his response, Rabbi Goldwasser notes that there is a counter-intuitive aspect to the way our sages intended the tzom to work. The idea is that in weakening the body by fasting, the ego is broken down as well, allowing one to achieve a level of tesuvha (repentance) that isn’t possible when we still feel like we’re the ones in control. A beautiful concept, but one that seems to fly in the face of the experience of people like me. If anything, my food-craving body is more ego-centric than usual on Yom Kippur. One tzom doesn’t always fit all.

Everything else we personally struggle over, yet try as I might to uncover real debate on the matter, what little there is to find on the Internet about fasting vs. not fasting pretty much boils down into two categories: people writing apologetically about not fasting for medical reasons; and people responding to questions about why one should fast with, essentially, four words–“Because you have to.”

So the Yom Kippur fast–and its physical arduousness–even we Reform Jews do not dare to question. Our most tenuously affiliated members come to crowd our sanctuaries and engage in what may be one of the only two religious things they reliably do all year (besides attending a Passover seder). Although we all have a right to our particular style and level of observance–including non-observance–still, they fast.

Yet there is no doubt that some of the people overflowing Reform shuls on Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur day are not observing the fast, even without the “approved” excuses of being too young or having a medical reason to eat and drink. Some people are a little too chipper by mid-afternoon. And some people don’t come back later in the day. Some of these people are eating. So why do none of them talk about it? I suppose this is where that spiritual excision is truly at work–what an embarrassment, what a shonda! I think most Reform Jews who don’t fast are, simply, shamed into not talking about it. 

And how many of us don’t fast? Since we don’t talk about it, who is to know? Last year’s annual Ynet-Gesher opinion poll in Israel showed that fully 35% of Israeli Jews don’t observe the Yom Kippur fast. The most fast-observant were the most Orthodox-leaning respondents. The least fast-observant were the secular Israeli Jews. I leave it to readers to decide who in that poll American Jews most resemble, but after reading the results I have no doubt many a cup of coffee will be drunk before the people with whom I will share YK day make it to the sanctuary on Saturday. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m in good stead.

The real question is what are we supposed to be achieving on Yom Kippur? Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:29 tells us literally “t’anu et-nafshoteichem“–afflict your souls–on this day. Isaiah tell us in ancient times those words were an idiom for fasting. In fact, the famous Haftarah reading from Isaiah (58:14) on Yom Kippur morning cautions us not to turn the fast into a fetish. The following is excerpted from a wonderful 2010 translation by “Velveteen” Rabbi Rachel Barenblat:

“Is this the fast I want?
A day for people to starve their bodies?
Do I want you to bow your heads like the reeds,
to mortify your bodies
with coarse cloth and ashes?
You call that a fast, a day
when Adonai will look upon you with favor?

“No!
This is the fast I want:
unlock the chains of wickedness,
untie the knots of servitude.
Let the oppressed go free,
their bonds broken.
Share your bread with the hungry,
and welcome the homeless into your home.
When you see the naked, clothe them.
All people are your kin:
do not ignore them.

“Then you will shine like the dawn,
and healing will rise up within you.
Your righteousness will vindicate you;
the presence of God will guard your safety.
Then, when you call, Adonai will answer.
When you cry out
God will say, ‘Here I am.'”

I do believe that many, many Jews find incredible spiritual, emotional, and repentant meaning in the tzom. Many, if not most connect with one, or some, or all of the reasons for fasting that our tradition–and our families–have set before us. But I don’t connect with fasting aimed at spiritual ends, and those reasons don’t have meaning for me. I know it’s doubtful I’m the only one to feel that way–even among observant Reform Jews. And I feel that blindly going along anyway when the result is not the one intended gets one dangerously close to fetishizing. The fast was never intended to be an end in itself.

What to do when that’s all you’re left with?

In our tradition, first we do and then we hear. First we perform the commandments, and then we perceive their value–in holiness, in ethical behavior, in chesed (loving-kindness), or often simply in deepening of our connection with God and others in spite of the seeming irrationality of certain rituals. But what happens when we do and then we don’t hear? Such is the exact essence of my question.

Maybe Rabbi Schaalman had a point. I, for one, don’t need a special day set aside to afflict my soul. I am perfectly, pessimistically, masochistically, fatalistically, bleeding-heartedly, guiltily, pathetically, yearningly, sobbingly, choose-death-or-live-righteously, Adonai please let me just lay my head in your lap-ingly able to go there inside of myself at the drop of a hat, at a moment’s notice, at any time of day or night, 24/7/365. For all the crustiness on the outside (as my blog and Facebook feeds might sometimes suggest), the untold story is almost always haunting myself, bowing before the Eternal, and seeking amends with my friends and family very closely after my occasional ass-hattishness.

Maybe it’s derived from my years in 12-step. Maybe it’s just how God made me. But when you get right down to it, I am a deeply emotional, deeply affected by others, human lump of pathos who cracks in half in heartbreak at my own behavior and my effect on others. All. The. Time. Others may not know I go there all the time.

But God does.

The only time I don’t go there is during the Yom Kippur fast. I honor others who are able to find their way inside of themselves, to pray for repentance via the tzom. The only place I find myself, however, is trapped inside a headache, craving water, and praying for fried chicken. And no amount of telling me that that’s the “wrong” way to be affected by the fast is going to change that. For me the fast actually places my focus directly on myself and my physical needs, so that the crying out of my body crowds out any thought of others or my relationship with them. My effect on others at all? Much less others going hungry on the planet? You have got to be kidding me.

That doesn’t make me an unobservant Jew, much less a bad one. It most likely makes me like many of the other people with whom I will share Yom Kippur services this year. And if the places I am barred from inside of myself by the fast are the ones to which I’m intended to go–what is the point of observing the fast in the first place?

I know, I know. Many Jews reading this post have this voice screaming in their heads right now, “Because…! Because…!” So I ask you to tell me in the comment thread below your honest answer. Because…why? Because the mental, emotional, and spiritual gymnastics required for me to find a satisfying, fulfilling, workable answer to that question that would fill in the missing link between fasting and repentance and still be in keeping with the denominational principles of Reform Judaism have wholly eluded me for three years.

Either I make of myself (what by my own personal estimation feels like) a hypocritical Reform Jew by fasting, or I make of myself a hypocritical faster by ignoring (what is my own personal understanding of) my denominational principles and lack of an inner connection in doing so.

Or, of course, I don’t fast. And in not doing so, maintain my connection with the force I cannot name that draws me inexorably closer and closer every day. There are derechs and there are derechs. Some are mainstream. Some are not. We all hope ours points in a holy direction. I don’t need to read the inscription to know that this is mine. As for where it may lead…that’s something I’m waiting to hear.

May you have an easy fast. Or no fast at all. But whichever you choose, do let yourself go there. Down into that place where you are real about who and what you are, what you have done, and what you wish you did differently, nakedly and humbly before your God. Because that is the real point.

And may you be well inscribed for a wonderful, prosperous year in the Book of Life.

Categories: JEWISH HOLIDAYS JEWISH OBSERVANCE Reform Judaism

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

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Contact: mikedoyleblogger@gmail.com

35 replies

  1. Thank you so much for supporting my beliefs in a common sense approach to the fast in a personally meaningful way. Hopefully this year my concentration will be less on how many hours until we eat to reflections on the past year and plans to make needed adjustments in the year ahead.

  2. So wait… you never observed a single fast in your life. Your tried and failed, and then you decided it wasn’t worth it the effort you didn’t put in.
    A fast is necessarily horrible if you don’t prepare it properly. And it may take a few tries to learn what preparations work best for you. You do what you want – but boasting about not fasting for spiritual reasons and out of intellectual integrity, while you gave up before ever experiencing what a proper fast is, seems quite pointless.

    “But what happens when we do and then we don’t hear?”
    -> How can you complain not to hear, if you’ve never done ?

    1. Let me rephrase your comment for you. What you really said is, “I get to tell you how to be Jewish, and it better be the way that I practice my Judaism.” And my response to that is no, no you don’t. I’m sure you think you do, because that’s how biblically literal Jews usually operate. Just like literalist Muslims, Christians, and on and on. It’s a form of extremism, and the reason for most of what’s wrong in Judaism and Israel. People like you laughably thinking they can tell everyone else the “right” way and “wrong” way to be Jewish. Trying to ridicule and shame them. You have no power here. Sorry.

      1. Thanks, Michael. I don’t fast and I don’t feel guilty about that. I am
        a good person, and I feel that is the most important thing, regardless
        of who or what we worship.

  3. Reading this article this morning was very interesting and enlightening. Judaism was rammed down our throats in a conservadox home. Fasting was manadatory. In all honesty I have no real logical reason why I fast. Habit I suppose and I am old man.

    I ate the traditional meal and gourged myself to ensure an easy fast. As I sit in silence all I can say to myself is why. Why are you fasting? To what end?

    The Isaiah haftorah is quite the view from a keyhole.

    I think there is much we will never understand or truly have the ability to comprehend.

    I don’t think I am going to fast anymore. Not because I don’t feel that guilty pang beaten into me but because when my time comes I will be judged regardless of whether I afflicted myself or not.

  4. I am not Jewish, invited to a dear friend’s break the fast today, and have been reading to learn about Yom Kippur and fasting. Your essay and all the responses are fascinating. I have learned a lot. Thank you. May you have a year ahead of health, joy and intellectual adventures inscribed in the Book of Life.

  5. I have thought this for years. When fasting precludes you from experiencing the levels of introspection, self-interrogation and empathy for others that you are capable of even under normal circumstances then it’s fasting that has cut you off from Am Yisrael, not eating.

  6. Hi Michael – I started to read this right before Chag this year, and have been waiting to come back online and finish the dialogue. I see it is still active. What strikes me the most about all of this is two-fold: 1 – Your desire to search, both text and self, to educate yourself on how you want to hold your Judaism. 2 – The way Yom Kippur struck you regardless of the fasting.

    I found that this year, I wasn’t hungry. I was a lot of things, but not hungry. Judaism is a repetition – literally, in the service, literally, in our lunar calendar where we repeat the energy of the month and timing of a holiday, literally, in that we always spend time dividing ourselves and uniting ourselves. For me to access the spiritual mood of this day, and not feel the hunger, took years of focus and repetition. I don’t think anyone walks in to a meditation and immediately becomes zen; it takes practice.

    I hope your journey brings you close to Torah, to introspection and taking on mitzvot that have meaning for you. Anyone can follow an arbitrary set of rules. It’s clear that your heart and your head, beyond inheritance, are linking you to Judaism. Shana tova.

    1. clearly not anybody could follow arbitrary sets of rules since there are reformed and conservative congregations and this article itself too. i dont understand the point of not taking something serious. at least high school drop outs don’t try to pretend they got their diploma and made the honor roll every year. they get their GED (or not) and live life.

      1. Your comment is a great example of the attitude of some Orthodox Jews that Judaism, Jewish law, and Jewish practice all somehow revolve around them or are theirs alone to define. Meanwhile, Orthodoxy of all forms is no older as a loose collection of movements than the 1700s–beginning to come together no more than about 50 years before the genesis of the Reform movement–missing having any credible direct connection with the Sages from whom the Orthodox movements claim legitimacy by more than 1,000 years.

  7. Actually, it isn’t an “unbroken chain” at all. Besides the upheaval of the fall of the second Temple and the wholesale reinterpretation of Judaism that Rabbinic Judaism represents–which barely resembles Biblical Judaism–Modern Orthodoxy is a product of the 19th century and itself was far more open and lenient through the middle third the 20th century. Claims of unbroken tradition and styles of observance just do not stand up to historical examination.

    1. Thank you Michael for the above facts. In addition to that, much of the book of Genesis, many of the holidays and rituals, along with much of our ideology, including Kabbalah, were influenced by previous cultures including the Greeks, Egyptians, Sumerians, and Babylonians. Very little is of pure Jewish origin. The Jews, and ancient Israelites never existed in a cultural vacuum. My understanding is that within Torah, in particular the Creation story, are codes which tell the story of mankind as earlier cultures had in their various “legends”. What if all of the mitzvot and all the ways Jews have ensured the survival of Torah and our people, has been the outer vehicle to ensure the survival of the encoded story of ALL of humanity? If this were true, then we have succeeded! I believe I’ve learned that the Torah originally was just the letters, without spaces, and certainly without interpretation, and that in the days of Geulah, the letters will be read differently. From much that I’m learning, we are in that time period now.

      1. I have come to similar ideas as Sarah above. I’ve had an Ortho friend plug her ears when I suggested that there’s little that’s actually Jewish in Judaism; but for our propensity for suffering.

        In my research and understanding, all of Judaism is a man made religion as all are. There are few if any actual historical facts to back up much before the Temples, yet there are stories which predate Judaism which are very similar to ours, even the Moses story.

        I no longer agree that a true prime Creator God demands any of this from anyone let alone cuts anyone off for not doing it. Jewish choseness was not doctrine until around 200 AD.

        My most alarming research gathering suggests that the main YHVH diety is a megalomaniacal jealous usurper wanna be god who demands animal sacrifice (and blood ritual like bris mila?) literally as its (energy) food as is clearly stated!
        When delving into metaphysics and esoteric studies, it is clear with any truth comes much distortion. The truth is to make the rest believable.

        I do understand how aspects of Judaism are a very valid path of spiritual and personal growth. But to say that some external god demands this is a fear mongering distortion.

        I also appreciate how well Jews do Community and supporting one another, and are often the first ones on the front line of any humanitarian crisis. That speaks worlds of truth.

        I’m still not willing to observe, or participate in, any of the holidays or rituals any more, including Yom Kippur. I’m unable to sit and listen to the myriad distortions taken as truth without refuting to closed ears.

  8. Orthodoxy follows the Talmud, also the word of G-D, which explains the written Torah. This is an unbroken chain handed down from Moses till today. Yes – till today!! Every word of the Talmud is considered the word of G-d. So when uneducated Jews or gentiles who never studied the Talmud or understand who the great Rabbis of the generatons down to today were, try to change or give there own personal opinion contradictory to the Talmud shouldn’t we defend our most precious commodity? There is no ‘ownership’ rather a matter of believing in the Talmud that it was given to Moses. Anyone can disagree but it doesn’t make them correct. All we do is defend our Torah. We don’t force anyone to do anything, rather we are more than willing to teach and explain to the sincere people who want to know.

  9. It does not say to fast in the Torah. It says to afflict ourselves. Fasting and the rest of Yom Kippur prohibitions are Rabbinical interpretation, as is nearly all of Halachah.

  10. Michael, was this comment meant for me? If yes, not following. What majority of Jews believe in have no bearing on the truth. Majority of American Jews have none or extremely minimul education given by people themselves who no real knowledge. Not sure what you meant by ‘one tenth of Orthodox Jews..’ .Example?

    1. I think my comment was clear. The great majority of American Jews do not believe what you believe. Only a minority of American Jews believe the Torah to be “the truth.” The rest of us do not consider it to be the binding word of God. All you do by denigrating the right of your fellow Jews to approach Torah as they see fit is drive a rift further between your community and others. Unless moshiach has arrived to say that Orthodox perspectives on Torah are the only valid ones, your community is simply claiming exclusive ownership of the right to define truth and Torah in Judasim, which it is not your community’s right to claim. Other communities have an equal right to disagree. Frankly, I think the most illegitimate thing a Jew can do is tell another Jew that they’re illegitimately practicing Judaism.

  11. The truth of the matter is that we fast because the Torah say to. The reasons that are given, although true, are not the only. The reasons that are given are the ones that we can understand in order to help us do the mitzvah but not limited to them.
    The true reasons are beyond our grasp in this world. Only G-D knows the true reasons. Example: believe or not, the MAHARAL says we don’t eat matza on Passover because we left Eygpt, rather we left Eygpt in the manner we did because there is a Mitzvah to eat matzah that night!

    1. No. The truth of the matter is that your denomination believes the Torah to be the word of God, unknowable, and binding. Your denomination does not speak for all Jews by any means, no matter how deeply you may believe those things about the Torah, although it is your right to believe them. In fact, the majority of American Jews do not share your beliefs. Two thirds of American Jewry identify with liberal streams of Judaism, and only one-tenth with Orthodox approaches to Torah such as the above.

    2. It’s all made up interpretations. Mitzvot, fasting, matzoh, and on and on. “We left Egypt in order to eat matzah”? Although I appreciate much of the Maharal’s teachings (or used to) that’s among the most ludicrous Orthodox interpretation I’ve ever heard.

      I always wondered how, according to tradition, the Israelites had enough time to completely rob the Egyptians but no time to bake bread fully? And who is thinking about baking bread when in a haste to escape someplace?

      They’re all stories, many rewritten from earlier ones of other cultures. The only useful purpose is to glean the lessons which help us treat one another, NOT just other Jews, like we’d like to be treated ourselves. The only universal law of behavior is DO NO HARM.

      All doctrine and beliefs which lead to divisiveness and arrogance are false. True Creator God does not care if you fast, or eat matzoh, or pork, or keep Shabbos, or x-mas, or what hat you wearnadonand on again; and is NOT judgmental. It’s all fear mongering and keeps all who buy into it further away from being a conduit for that love light essence. !אין עוד

      The worst is that because we live in an interactive universe as co-creators, what we believe becomes our reality only because of the power of belief. An example of this is the legacy of tragedy happening on Tisha b’Av. Aside from the audacity of telling the Israelites that this would be a day of tragedy forever, it is only our belief that it is true which has made it so!

      Perhaps this covenant was made with a false usurper wanna be god higher dimensional being and it’s time to release ourselves from it for the sake of Am Yisroel. Incidentally the word Yisroel is a combination of the three predominant gods in the ancient world at that time- Ishtar, Ra, and El.

  12. You are such a fucking FRAUD. SO… you cannot fast on Yom Kippur, eat pork, have a Christmas tree, but parade around in a yarmulke and have the unimaginable chutzpah to want to be a RABBI?

    Unbelievable!

    1. As a matter fact, yes I can. I suspect that your community’s–or more precisely, your denomination’s–approach to Judaism holds halacha to be eternal and unchangeable, and holds that anyone who does not hew to your beliefs about halacha is not a valid Jew and would not make a valid Jewish leader or member of Jewish clergy. Believing in those things strongly enough to curse at a fellow Jew (or at anyone else)–besides not being the behavior I’m certain God would have you engage in with your fellow human beings–will not make them true. There are more valid approaches to Judaism than yours. There always were. (Modern Orthodoxy, as I have noted elsewhere, actually grew as a response to the Reform movement, not the other way around.) There always will be. Name calling will not magically make all other Jews exactly like you. The real chutzpah, as I see it, is telling other Jews that they should all be the same–while at the same time being cowardly enough to not use your real name when you suggest such a thing.

    2. Wow! Feel the Ahavas Yosroel. It would be better for all of us and all of humanity if we were to eat pork, have a Christmas tree (originally symbolizing the Tree of Life), and skip all the yarmulkas, hats, wigs, and whatevers, than to diss on each other. In your righteous hunger and chest pounding, may HaKadoshBaruchHu, break open your heart and BLESS you with the inner sight to see all of Creation with the same unconditional love with which the All Benificient Force Creator and Sustainer does.

    3. Hate to tell you this, sweetie – the Orthodox do not own Judaism. No matter how much you want them to, they don’t.

      Stop telling other Jews how to practice their Judaism, and mind your own house’s business.

      1. AMEN and thank you Adam.
        I’d like to add to the abve that Jews do not have a monopoly on God, and Truth, as much of the Ortho doctrine seems to imply. For sure there is much Truth woven throughout Judaism, along with much accumilated cultural dross, some which serves us spiritually, and some which perpetuates separation and elitism.

  13. In the end, I indeed didn’t fast. As we lit the Yom Tov candles on Erev Yom Kippur, I felt a strong urge to fast. I refrained from food or drink through the late afternoon and evening until after Kol Nidre. Then I got a caffeine headache and decided that I either stick to my principles or I don’t. And I ate and drank, got up and had breakfast and coffee on YK day, and came home between services for lunch.

    And what amazed me was that besides feeling more connected to t’shuvah than ever, I also felt connected to the same, old headache, sweaty forehead, and general sense of malaise even with having eaten. Which goes to show–at least to me–that Yom Kippur has a power in its very nature of daylong services, severity, and soul-searching to do its job whether I fast or not. Next year, I look forward to having the best of both worlds: breakfast and lunch; and an afflicted soul for all I’m worth.

    1. Michael, if you vomited your first Yom Kippur, are you *sure* you’re not/ you weren’t ill? I know people who have to drink (not eat) for medical reasons on Yom Kippur, but even they don’t vomit.

      For me, reason 2 you give above is reason enough for me to fast – in fact, not to blow my own shofar, but I try to observe ALL the fasts – which is definitely an oddball thing to do even in British Reform Judaism (whose members are supposedly more observant than American Reform). In fact I forgot one of them one year – and the nausea I felt over missing it is the closest *I’ve* felt to fasting-related vomiting!

      1. I was fine. It was because I decided to stop fasting on liquid and confine my fast to food, and the first liquid I drank on Yom Kippur morning after that decision was orange juice. The acid in the juice immediately upset my stomach and what happened next wasn’t pretty.

      2. I can personally attest that when I don’t eat, and then I exercise, or when I used to fast and go to shul, instead of fasting and staying home, my body was physically over-exerted, and started to dry heave, trying to vomit. Happened once in each case. It was a reflex action over which I had no control. That’s just how my body is, and has nothing to do with illness. It’s the over- exertion on an empty stomach.

  14. I don’t fast anymore. I have a lot of reasons, but the best one is that reading Isaiah 58 and taking it seriously is a lot harder for me than missing a couple of meals.

    Great post, and I’m thrilled to discover your blog. I’m an Observant Reform Jewish Californian who was born to an Irish Catholic family in Tennessee. It’s made for an entertaining life.

  15. (Apologies…..am posting this again, as I missed out a quote, without which it makes less sense…..)

    Oh….my….goodness…..I find even more in common with you; as soon as I saw this blog post title, I felt better within myself. I too am not going to fast….and though I do have a plethora of medical problems which I could use as an excuse, I feel so much better just being honest with myself(and G-d) and just saying that I choose not to.

    And then I read on, and begin to wonder if we are in some way related… so many similarities!….. the ‘breaking down of the ego’….(and this was before I read that you too had 12 step experience)….

    ……..I, for one, don’t need a special day set aside to afflict my soul. I am perfectly, pessimistically, masochistically, fatalistically, bleeding-heartedly, guiltily, pathetically, yearningly, sobbingly, choose-death-or-live-righteously, Adonai please let me just lay my head in your lap-ingly able to go there inside of myself at the drop of a hat, at a moment’s notice, at any time of day or night, 24/7/365. For all the crustiness on the outside (as my blog and Facebook feeds might sometimes suggest), the untold story is almost always haunting myself, bowing before the Eternal, and seeking amends with my friends and family…….

    That’s a description of me.

    And then I read on, further, about you having been involved with 12 step programming, and it gave me shivers of recognition. I spent 16 years of trying to smash my already almost non existent and fragile ego – I needed nurturing, building up, not smashing down, as I was told by so many….my default personality is guilt, blaming myself for anything and everything, whether or not it’s my fault, and for the things which I am guilty of, well, I give myself such a hard time it’s unbelievable.

    When I finally left, it took me a long Time to recover from recovery.

    And this is my second Yom Kippur, and my intention is to read, pray, think, and be aware of how I have ‘missed the mark’ and could do better. I love children’s prayer books, as well as adults’…..despite being 58.

    Thank you for the reassurance, the recognition, and the feeling that it is indeed ok to be me, just a wee Jew doing the best I can. And I know G-d knows that, which really is all that matters, but it helps mightily to have human reassurance. Thank you indeed, and as you said, I say to you, with thanks…

    “And may you be well inscribed for a wonderful, prosperous year in the Book of Life.”

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