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Fast & Slow

"Have an easy fast" is the typical remark one says at Yom Kippur, a wish that one will easily get through the next 24 hours without food, entertainment and other "luxuries."  I expected this past Yom Kippur, being the first one I have observed with a fast in the last thirty years, to be somewhat difficult.  In fact, it was relatively easy.  It started at sunset on a Friday and the hunger pangs didn't start until around 4 the next afternoon.  What I struggled with most was not being able to check my email and do my usual on line routine (Facebook, news, crosswords, etc).

I decided that this would be more of a cultural observation,rather than a religious one.  I don't consider myself to be at all religious.  It's a bit of a stretch to think of myself as spiritual, although I could probably make the argument for it.  I like the cliché that says we are not humans on a spiritual journey, but instead we are spirits on a human journey.  Like most clichés there is a nugget of truth there. A spiritual journey sounds as if it would be fraught with a need for perfection. A human journey seems to allow for a lot of stumbling and mistakes. 

Although Thelma didn't fast, and I wouldn't have expected her to, she was respectful of my observance by not having the radio on and listened to it on her iPod with headphones. And so my 24 hour period of atonement had a somewhat monastic feel as the house was mostly silent. Ideally, I was supposed to spend my time meditating on my sins.  There was very little of that. I went for long walks, as I do most days. On my walks I tend to let anything and everything pop into my head.  Part of the Yom Kippur rule is that we are not supposed to work, but I did think about the play that I have yet to start and came up with some interesting ideas about how the story might unfold.  If there is anything spiritual about me it is connected to being a storyteller, so I'm hoping it all evens out somehow.  

When I wasn't going for walks I sat in my office and read a wonderful collection called Great Jewish Short Stories. That is the cultural part of the observance.  My favorite were a couple of stories by Sholom Aleichem, who is best known as the source of the musical Fiddler On The Roof. In fact, one of the stories I read, Hodel, is about one of Tevye's daughters and makes up part of the musical's plot.  There was a story from the Apocrypha and one by the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, so I did get a something of a lesson in Jewish history.  If nothing else, Judaism is best defined in its stories.

As I said earlier, by the time 4 p.m. came my stomach was starting to rumble and the hours seemed to drag.  24 hours goes by slowly when all you do is read and go for walks, but the slowness of a fast always provides food for thought.  My fast ended with a takeout turkey dinner that my mother-in-law brought from a Presbyterian church supper.  Blintzes would have been nice, but I always like a meal that's rich in irony.