Saturday, September 25, 2004

This is probably a seriously blasphemous statement to make in the immediate aftermath of my religion's holiest day, but unless I have been given the dumbed-down, Reform explanation, which is always possible, I think the whole fasting for Yom Kippur thing is really stupid. The idea, at least according to the possibly-dumbed-down, Reform version, is that you're not supposed to eat because you're supposed to be fully focused on spiritual matters, rather than your body and its earthly needs. The problem with that is that nothing makes you think about your body more than discomfort. I'm fairly certain that everyone at Yom Kippur services spends a lot more time contemplating how long it is until sundown and dinner than repenting for her sins. If the idea is to make you pay attention to the holiday, rather than your body, it's totally counterproductive.

So I'm not going to do it anymore. I can see the point of eating matzoh at Passover: it's a small sacrifice that makes us feel connected to our ancestors' much greater privation. And I could see the point of saying that you can't eat anything particularly wonderful on Yom Kippur, just like you're not supposed to dress up in flashy clothes, because the holiday isn't about how great you look. But fasting, it seems to me, makes the day about hunger, not about repentance. If that's the idea, because there's some virtue in bodily discomfort, then that's fine. Tell me what that virtue is, and I'll decide whether I'm on board for it. But I'm not going to fast just because the religion dictates it. I'm not the kind of Jew for whom "because I said so" is good enough.

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