Thursday, October 9, 2008

the holiest day of the year

In the past 24 hours I've learned of infidelity, cancer and surgery, which made me recall a short poem I wrote during college. It goes something like this:

stars drown in the east river
hearts sink into stomachs
on this september evening
i cheated on the fast
chewed a stick of gum
ripped in half
till sundown
yom kippur blues
infect me

uncles die
men break hearts
my sins may be erased
but with them went
what mattered

During services this morning I drifted in and out of being present and reading responsively and daydreaming about who I could apologize for "wronging" over the past year. I noticed something new this time around. While reciting the sins, I noticed the rabbi lightly put a fist to his heart after mentioning each one. My sister pointed out that my dad was doing it too. How did I miss this detail after all these years? Maybe I should apologize to the Jewish people. For not being observant. For being unsure in my beliefs.

Right now I'm starving. To be honest, I started getting hungry after last night's service, only two hours after dinner. My dad said, "Well that's the point of today."
To starve? I think the point is that every time my stomach growls I'm supposed to think of God or anything bad I've done since last October. But all I can think about is what my cousin will be serving at her break-the-fast dinner tonight. And salivating about it. So maybe I've already committed my first sin of the new year: gluttony.

Do other religions have a Day of Atonement? Maybe everyone, Jew and Gentile, should put aside some time today to say I'm Sorry.