Thursday, 16 September 2010

Too fast??

Yom Kippur is drawing near. I am trying to work out how I will cook for and feed Roni without going crazy-hungry... and I'm also thinking about why I am planning to fast.

After all, I am planning to fast because... well that's just it, you see... I'm not sure why.

If I am to be honest, I have only truly fasted on a handful of occasions. I have 'nearly fasted' (is that like being 'a bit pregnant'?) on numerous occasions and when I have succumbed to my hunger it has been late in the day and usually only to a cup of tea or slice of toast. Nonetheless on those occasions when I am sipping a cuppa at 3.30pm on Yom Kippur I definitely feel guilty. Similarly I feel like I have really accomplished something when I have successfully fasted.

But neither guilt nor a sense of achievement should be the reason why I fast on Yom Kippur. According to (don't you just love that URL?):
"Yom Kippur is G-d’s designated annual day of total spirituality. On Yom Kippur, we get into things that make us like angels the most, and out of things that make us like animals the most: we spend the whole day in Tefillah, and we put our bodily cravings on the back burner."
So I am supposed to consecrate this day: go to shul, say some prayers and focus on G-d (I will have to post again about why I sometimes put a '-' and sometimes an 'o' in that word...). But I know I'm not going to be doing any of those things this year (and I've not been to shul for, well, quite a few years since I moved away from home). I have an appointment in the morning and my dad's coming down for the weekend and we'll take Roni to the park in the afternoon. So if I'm not going to do any of the other stuff, why fast? Maybe it's because it's something I can do, even if I'm not doing anything else. Maybe, even if I'm in town or in the park, my rumbling tummy will remind me of the meaning of the day and draw my attentions to God. Maybe it'll just make me think about food more than usual... there'll probably be an element of both of these effects, I hope more of the former.

As a secular Jew coming up to Yom Kippur I am surely not alone with this scenario. According to YNet,

"Asked whether they plan to fast on Yom Kippur, 61% of Israelis said yes and 28% said no. Six percent said they would fast only part of the day and 5% had yet to decide. According to a religious segmentation, 100% of haredim, 100% of religious and 85% of traditional Jews will abstain from eating and drinking for an entire day. Among seculars, about half of respondents will fast (most of them all day) and half won't fast at all" 
 So no surprises there really. I suspect that it easier for secular Jews to fast in Israel where all the cafes and shops are closed and the streets are empty. In Brighton, I will be in a little Yom Kippur bubble unless I go to shul (my mother would say, "So go to shul!" at this point). I should take comfort from the fact that Mark will also fast, but as he can do a 10 hour shift at work and come home and say "I forgot to eat all day" (How, I ask you, HOW???!!!) I know who will be finding it harder.

More interestingly, "According to haredim and national religious, riding bicycles is forbidden to the same extent as riding in a car is. Traditionalists are also opposed to riding bicycles on the fast day, but are divided as to the degree of severity they attribute to the phenomenon. The secular public said that it is one of the symbols of the day." (full article)

The Ayalon freeway on Yom Kippur (also known as Yom HaOfnaiim - Day of the Bicyles)

Photos courtesy of the lovely Lucy Inbar

I will be fasting, as much as I can. I have found some helpful hints online (thank God for t'Internet!) that I will endeavour to use when I inevitably find the going getting tough, including eating a high-protein, high-complex carb (but ordinary sized) last meal on Firday night, taking a nap in the afternoon (Roni permitting), drinking lots of water in the days leading up to YK to stave off dehydration (often the reason I succumb, to be honest) and, a new one here, sniffing spices (cinnamon and cloves). I have also seen this little mental trick online:  When the going gets tough think "If I made it this far, I can make it the rest of the way." which I intend to be my mantra/affirmation for the day.

So here goes.

Wishing you all a good fast, hatima tova.


PS Why is it called a fast when it always goes so sloooooooooooow?

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