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
indigestibly
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.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I think the purpose of the fast is to evoke a nutritionally deprived physiological response. Lack of water to make you feel faint and lack of food to make you feel weak, something to the affect of a controlled near death experience, though not as dramatic. The fast combined with intense prayer and ritual would yield that of a more intense internal response.

Sometimes it works for me, other times, there is nothing. This year was one of those nothing years, just the motions and an annoying hunger. When I wonder why I feel nothing I think of a glass half full half empty situation. Depending on my perspective I'm either a staunch optimist or a extreme pessimist, rarely in between.
In relationship to the glass...
If I pour the water, I tend to be think its half full. When I'm the drinker, I think of it as half empty.

I think this year was a negative experience for me because I've invested nothing in my religion or life for that matter.

Thats really my lesson for Yom Kippur this year. Maybe next year will be more enlightening.