Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Yom Kippur Fast

Coming from a Mid-western Methodist upbringing, I always believed that an essential part of worship was gobbling up the offerings of tuna casserole, macaroni and cheese, jello chiffon pie, and German chocolate cake on the tables in the church basement at the monthly pot-luck supper. As I think about the Jews' obligation of fasting for 25 hours starting at sundown last night, it occurs to me that Protestant churches are the only religious groups I know of who do not mandate fasting.
(I read in Wikipedia that the continental Protestant Reformers "criticized fasting as a purely external observance that can never gain a person salvation. The Swiss Reformation of Zwingli began with an ostentatious public sausage-eating during Lent."--YUK.)
Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, Baha's, and Sikhs all recommend or require fasting. I feel like such a wuss.
For each of the 43 years we've been married, my husband, who is proud of his Judaism but is not religious, has fasted on Yom Kippur. Last year I joined him, but in previous years I did eat--just not where he would see me and be tempted.
Yom Kippur, the solemn and holy Day of Atonement, began at sundown last night. Observant Jews abstain from food, drink, washing, marital relations, and wearing leather (leather shoes, in Biblical times, were considered extra-comfortable) as well as the regular Sabbath abstaining from working, carrying, driving, cooking, etc.
At the end of Yom Kippur it is traditional to celebrate with Break the Fast, a family meal. In their lighthearted yet informative book What to Do When You're Dating a Jew, Weiss and Block quote as overheard at the beginning of the meal: "You can tell who didn't fast. They are being much more civil."
For more about the High Holy Days, which include Roshashana as well as Yom Kippur, click on Holidays on the sidebar.

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