This past week was Yom Kippur. It's the Jewish day of atonement, and the end of the Days of Awe. That's that week in between Rosh Hashanah, our new year, and Yom Kippur, when the Book of Life is open. We're supposed to think about the people we've hurt over the past year so we can atone for it, and then our names will be written into the Book of Life for the next year to come, and it is closed and finalized at the end of Yom Kippur. And while most of this time is generally joyous, celebrating the sweetness of life and the excitement of a new year, we're supposed to fast on Yom Kippur itself, to reflect on who we are and what we've done.
I'm a pretty bad Jew. I've never fasted on Yom Kippur. At least not before this year.
Honestly, I'm not sure I could tell you exactly why I chose to fast this time. It's not like anything in particular happened to make me understand that fasting would actually have meaning for me this time around. I've been connecting more and more to my Judaism and my faith/spirituality, but that's been an ongoing process for a couple of years now, I didn't start fasting when I started that. It was just a few days before Yom Kippur, and I realized that I was going to do it.
(Thank god I managed to give away my shift at my day job. Sure, it's about denying yourself the pleasure of food to think about what you've done, but I don't think whatever higher power there is meant for us to do that while working in a restaurant.)
I went about my day almost as normal. I slept in way later than I normally would, but I still volunteered at the New York Film Festival that evening, and I didn't go to services or anything. That didn't stop me from reflecting pretty much all day, though. And there were two things I was particularly thinking about.
One is that I never realized just how much my schedule and my life revolves around food. Not just my day job, but when I started to plan my day and I had to deliberately leave out a lunch break. Or when I thought I might be early to the NYFF, so I figured "I'll head down there, and if I'm too early, I'll just stop by Starbucks" before I remembered "no, I won't." When I started to run low on energy and I figured I'd just get a snack. And then at the festival, realizing that I would have to decide at 6pm between seeing a movie and breaking the fast. (Good thing for me that 6pm movie was also showing the next day at 9pm, so I just saw it then! Before I found that out, I was really, legitimately struggling with the decision.)
But more importantly, I was thinking about the people I've hurt and disrespected. And I realized that I haven't hurt that many other people. In fact, I go way out of my way to make sure I don't hurt others, and everybody likes me. I'm sure there are people I've hurt that I don't realize, but I'm also sure that they all know me and they know I didn't mean to hurt them.
The person I have disrespected is myself. Yes, I know, that's pretty self-serving for a holiday about atonement towards others, but by going so far out of my way to make sure the people around me are happy, I've put my own self at less of a priority. As if I'm not as important as my peers. I'm happy to help my friends where I can, but I also have to start looking out for myself more. I have to start demanding the things that I want, because if I don't, I'm not going to get them. And that's probably going to make me come off as a bit of a "bitch." But I have to stop caring about that, too. Besides, like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have said, bitches get stuff done. And I have a lot of stuff to do.
I have lost out on too many things that I've wanted this year so the people around me could like me more and I would hurt them less.
I then broke the fast by going to Indie Food and Wine in Lincoln Center, getting a soup, two sandwiches, as well as popcorn and lemonade from the concessions stand at the Walter Reade theater... and then I went to Gourmet Garage, bought a pint of Ben and Jerry's, and split it with a couple of other NYFF volunteers. Because it's also possible to get what I want AND make the people around me happy.
Is all of this the point of Yom Kippur? I don't know. Probs not. But it's the spiritual experience that I had, so it's valid, too.