My Jewish education growing up was so sketchy that I literally was not aware that Jews fast on Yom Kippur. I only found out after nearly a year in Israel, when my first YK rolled around. When it dawned on me that this fasting thing was common knowledge to what seemed like everybody, no matter where they lived, I really wondered how I could have missed something so basic. That ignorance, more than anything, shows how little contact (or interest) I had with Jews in my childhood, making it all the more incomprehensible that I, of all people, ended up living here.
The obsession with food
, and the annoyance people expresss regarding the need to fast -- as if anyone is actually forcing them to (the typical Israeli is compelled to go along with the crowd, even if they're completely irreligious otherwise; this year's poll in the Yediot newspaper reported that 70% of Israelis intend to fast, with the average rising to 89% in Jerusalem) -- has always seemed simple-minded if not hypocritical: either you are doing it because you want to, for your own personal reasons, in which case why would you complain? ...or you're in effect loudly acknowledging your need to follow the crowd, against you're will, in which case you're pathetic. This week, after I wished one of my colleagues a pleasant long weekend, saying the wonderful quiet of Yom Kippur made it my favorite holiday, she told me amiably that she always finds this particular day the most annoying, because of the need to fast, but presumably it would irritate her less if she could just spend the day in restful contemplation and not be also required to feed her four children. However, I don't see why people who choose to do it would also expect or wish for it to be easy -- seems to me the point is that it should be somewhat painful. Otherwise, you might as well eat. But so much is made of the one day a year concept, and then the next day everyone snaps back to self-centered normal. The hypocrisy of religion: one of my long-lived pet peeves.
I have fasted in my life, but never on Yom Kippur, davka
. And the concept of a "good final signature" in the Book of Life which everyone has been wishing each other for the past week still strikes me as no more rational than spitting when you see a black cat. My very religious colleague (who has a great sense of humor, so we get along very well) has been going off to his usual mid-day prayers and telling me (only half-jokingly, I think) that he'll pray for me too. I receive this most graciously, always glad to have someone putting in a good word for me. While I have the utmost respect for the man, I still look at what he's doing as behavior based in primitive superstition. It's every bit as rational as Catholics taking communion -- which is to say, useful psychological support for anyone who believes in it. I challenge the Jewish theory all the time, and he discusses it with me good-naturedly, quite willing to educate me, but of course we'll always see things from different angles.
I have four days off work because erev-YK, and YK (today and tomorrow) landed very nicely at the end of our work week, so it's a luscious long weekend. So far, I've spent a lot of it in the kitchen, feeding my delighted 13-year-old who's thrilled not to have to defrost herself another soy cutlet for a change. Today I made both chicken soup with kneidlach (matza balls) and chicken shnitzels -- the home-made kind where you pound the breasts with a pointy mallet, then dredge them in egg and bread crumbs before frying them. We're kind of OD'ing on chicken, I guess, but it's all yummy. Still, most of the day I've been doing dishes, cooking, feeding, doing more dishes, then she's hungry again, more cooking, more dishes... when she asked for another dessert I drew the line.
So in typical squarepeg fashion, I do the opposite of what most people do, which is lots of cooking in preparation for every holiday except
Yom Kippur. This time, the only aromas wafting through the neighborhood were mine.
Look up contrary
. I think you'll find my picture.