My daughter enjoyed her very first Yom Kippur fast this weekend. Enjoyed is obviously the entirely wrong word, unless you count her whines of “OH MY GOD I’m going to die if I don’t eat anything right this very second” at 10am in the morning enjoyment. But she did it. She made it a full 25 hours with no eating or drinking—I’m impressed.
I have mentioned this before, that I really don’t understand fasting as a concept, but I do it each year. Each year it gets easier, of course, save for the stupid caffeine headache that plagues my entire head and face for the entire day until I pour 2-3 mugs full of caffeinated nectar of the gods down my gullet the second three stars are visible in the sky. Caffeine is wonderful—and worth being awake until 3am.
So why do it, you ask, if I don’t really understand the point. That’s a very good question. The answer is that I really don’t know—maybe it’s just that it’s something I have always done, maybe it feels like it’s that opportunity to wipe the slate clean. I’m wiping my body of nutrients, I’m wiping my soul of this year’s wrongdoings. Let’s erase that virtual chalkboard and start over.
For me, Yom Kippur is a good opportunity to re-assess who I am, who I have been, the choices I have made during the past year. It’s a good opportunity to choose to make conscious changes—in my relationship with God (a little), and in my relationship with others (a lot). I have the God thing down. I might do things a little differently than you do, but I have my very own personal relationship with the big man, and it’s not your business, really. It’s there, and it’s my own, and I’m good with it. I feel no guilt about this.
My relationships with others, though, that’s what the day is really about for me.
I lost my best friend this year. (It nearly destroyed me.)
I resurrected a really important relationship with an old friend this year.
I made some new friends, I spent time with old friends.
I have done more than enough; I have done not nearly enough.
I have been a really good daughter, sister, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, cousin, aunt, wife, mother; I most definitely could have been a better daughter, sister, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, cousin, aunt, wife, mother.
I picked up the phone; I didn’t pick up the phone. I offered advice and a shoulder to cry on; I wasn’t there when I should have been.
I let someone win an argument; I was stubborn and stood my ground. I lost my temper, I yelled, I got angry; I held my cool, I counted backwards from 1,000 and thought of warm brownies.
I have gone out even when I was tired or busy; I have canceled plans.
There was a lot of good this year—a lot, but there was certainly room for improvement.
This slate that we talk about…I believe that it’s a chance. A chance to only do better than we did the year before.
And this is what Emily and I discussed, when we found ourselves—once again—sitting side by side in the back of the synagogue. While we were simultaneously depriving ourselves of food and drink, and leather shoes, we chatted in hushed tones about being a better daughter, a better mother, a better friend, a better person.We reflected on her year, on her choices. We talked about good decisions and not-as-good decisions. We talked about calling her grandparents more, about letting certain things go, about being kinder to her siblings.
Was it more meaningful to her because she was cold, and tired, and hungry? Was it more meaningful to me?
I guess it doesn’t matter, really.
I woke up this morning, poured myself a giant cup of coffee, and started a new day with a new slate, a smile, and a plan that may or may not include fewer hours playing Candy Crush. READY, if you will.
And so did Emily. Well, without the coffee.