Jews Fast To Slow Down

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Judaic “locker room talk” comes in the form of the Sermon.  When the ark closes the Rabbi grants the congregation with the mornings final blessing, a long awaited and appreciated switch from Hebrew to English.  Now that the language barrier has been breached, the Rabbi delivers his Sermon, a capital stack of stories bound by current events, cultural lessons, and historical happenings.  Amongst todays preaching, the Rabbi informed the room of a new Light Rail Train that would replace the century old railroad that previously connected the holy cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  The new train was received with laud by the millennia’s and working class, appreciative of their now fractioned commute time.  The elder Orthodox tribesmen however, battled the construction, not because the old rail was some historically significant landmark, but instead because of the rush the country was in to construct it.  12746-7.jpgThey cried foul at the fact that construction was taking place on Shabbat, a sacred day in the Jewish week set forth for rest.  The controversy boiled down to a question of time, where the new-Gen was looking for shortcuts while the elders were upset for its negligence of the status quo.  Like the tortoise and the hair, the question of speed is always the contributing factor to any race…but, like we learned in the elementary fable, the fastest route isn’t always the golden ticket to a W.

To my surprise, Rabbis Sermon was void of any explanation as to why the Jews fast on Yom Kippur.  While he threw in his fair share of food puns, teasing at the hangry audience, he never delved into the question that I am sure most heads under 60 were begging to be answered.  Traditional lure is an easy explanation and a 5 minute google search gifts you with this…..

  1.  Rosh Hashana marks the begging of the Jewish New Year and beings a 10 day period of self reflection which ends on Yom Kippur.
  2. Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, dubbed “The Day of Atonement,” we ask for forgiveness from God for our sins.
  3. On Yom Kippur we practice ‘ee-ni-tem, a Hebrew word which translates to self-denial.
  4. Denial comes in the form of fasting, refraining from work, refraining from sex, and refraining from wearing leather.  During this time we are to show t’shuvah, or repentance.
  5. On this day we look not for forgiveness from others, but instead for forgiveness under the eye of God…at sunset we “break-fast” and begin anew.

The takeaway from this rudimentary synopsis exposed a different ideal to me which encouraged me to take my fasting a bit more serious this year.  The Jewish people have never been one of self infliction as much as we prefer to indulge.  Unlike Hollywood-ized Sunday school pictured decades ago, my Hebrew School teacher never raised a ruler to my knuckles for a mispronunciation nor did I beg for forgiveness at mass to a cloaked figure…to each their own!  Therefore it was confusing to see that on our holiest day we abandon our usual ways and instead revert to a day of self inflicted pain, abstinence, and overall masochism…it didn’t add up.

Perhaps this could be a tad overzealous, but I think it’s safe to say that the younger generations are moving farther and farther away from their religious ancestry…a trend that can be seen across all religions, Judaism included.  With that, personalizing The Day of Atonement nears impossible as it asks the congregation to rid themselves of a day worth of pleasure to repent from sins we probably can’t even remember.  Mazel Tov to my Rabbi for showing me a new light!

The elder Orthodox were upset that speed was trumping tradition, an argument that I have with my own Grandparents under different conditions.  We drive too fast, text too much, eat too quickly, and NEVER show enough appreciation.  While these “sins” may be subjective to an eyeball that is already north of 80, it never hurts to entertain a different perspective.  Look towards the elderly in the room, the grandfathers who can’t even bobby-pin their Yamakah since they have no hair and the grandmothers showering the children in spit with their bone-chilling shhhhhhhhh.  tumblr_static_cwmo9fh4h40kg008s440sgo4w_640_v2.jpgHere sits a generation shackled in tradition, who will never understand construction work on the Sabbath…not out of stubbornness but instead because they are cemented down in centuries worth of tradition.  One day soon, the youth will be the elderly, protesting the cities construction work and unable to see why this means is being taken for this end.  Soon, we’ll be the hairless man and the salivating women and soon our traditions of driving too fast, texting too much, eating too quickly and NEVER showing enough appreciation will be too entrenched in us to ever abandon them.  Let us take this Day of Atonement to not just repent from our sins but to instead deny ourselves from TODAYS vice’s and thirst for speed.

The old folks are absolutely right…we move fast.  Whether or not the speed is above the limit is for you to decide, but today, on the holiest day of the Jewish year let’s simply appease them.  The world today is fortunate enough to be able to satisfy every urge and desire in the blink of an eye.  Information can be found, food can be eaten, sex can be had, phones can be checked, oil can be bought…if you want it you can have it.  Being as this was hardly always the case it is something that the populace and the congregation should take for granted and these are all blessings that should certainly be counted.  So today, 1 out of 365, it’s worth the reminder that this may not always be the case.  Maybe you don’t have much apologizing to do on this Yom Kippur, but I guarantee that everyone in your temple has a whole lot of thanking to do.

To fast is to refrain and to refrain is to remind.  We are the generation that will build railroads on the Sabbath and show no remorse for it since we are used to the speed of immediacy!  While we bow our heads in prayer in hopes that no day shall be as challenging as today, we owe it to no one but ourselves to practice en-ni-tem, and deny ourselves the rights we are fortunate enough to have.  The Black Crows said it best, “we don’t know what we got till it’s gone!”

Happy New Year to you and yours. Amen.


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