In the spirit of the end of Yom Kippur and my inability to concentrate on homework due to prolonged fasting, followed by bagels and lox (typical, right?), I thought I would grace my new layout (yay!) with a blog entry about the day. This is the first time I’ve fasted in a while… well in two years, since I was not feeling physically up to it last year, and it’s interesting to examine the reasons why Jews fast on this holiday. There are several reasons, one of the most important being to distance one’s self from all bodily cravings in order to be completely immersed in t’filah(prayer), spirituality, and atonement. Along with fasting, Jews are not allowed to wear leather shoes, have sex, bathe, or use perfumes. So the point of the holy day, is to pray to God to grant forgiveness for sins, and to gain a spot in the book of life for the coming year.
The problem that I see with this whole process, and which many other Jews have commented on over the years, is that praying doesn’t really seem to be enough to rid one of their sins. There is a ritual that some Jews perform where they throw pieces of bread into a stream or river and assign the bread scapegoat qualities and call it a day. Similarly, I remember that when I was about 7 or 8 and at the kid’s service during Yom Kippur, we had to go up to the trashcan, announce one of our sins to the entire room and throw a piece of paper into the can. I mean, back then my “sins” weren’t really anything more than lies to my mom concerning who had eaten the chocolates in the candy cabinet, but still, it seemed to me that that sort of thing should remain between me and my mom and not be declared to a classroom of my peers. The whole practice struck me as humiliating and entirely unnecessary.
Another odd part of the ceremonies that I noticed today is this one prayer (I forget the name) which speculates on all the ways that people may die in the next year: who will die of starvation? of attacks from wild beasts, murder, etc. Shouldn’t we be focusing more on life, and what great things may become of our lives during the upcoming year? Maybe talk about preventative measures that could be taken against death?
The view that the rabbis at my synagogue believe in (and I agree with) is that it is necessary to take action and ask friends and family for forgiveness and to make the next year a better, and healthier year (so as to hopefully escape from death).
Anyway, back to today. Dickinson doesn’t offer the most interesting or melodic services, so I spent all of two hours there, and spent the rest of the day in bed watching The Silence of the Lambs and The Graduate, subsequently. I thought about writing a long journal entry that reflected on the past year, but realized that I did not have enough brain capacity to write anything coherent. So the day that is supposed to be dedicated to thinking, and praying, and meditating seemed a bit counter productive, as the only things I found myself capable of doing on no food were the recitation of prayers, watching of movies and feeling hungry.
(Note to fasting Jews: The Silence of the Lambs is a great film that guarantees a few hunger-free hours, thanks to cannibalism and serial killers.)
So this year, I fasted because of tradition, because I didn’t last year, and because it seemed like a good purifying ritual to start off the Jewish new year. But I guess the point of all of this is that it’s not all that important to me to start over with a clean slate, but rather to push forward, toward a healthier lifestyle in which wrongdoings should be resolved, and never shrugged off nor forgotten.