Today is Yom Kippur, the holiest and most solemn day of the year for we Jews. It’s a day of atonement, repentance and reconciliation, to say nothing of generally picture-perfect weather. You’re also supposed to fast and abstain from having sex, and I usually go one for two there.
Here’s the deal: Other than slimmer thighs, fasting is about atoning for sins against God (using His name in vain, parking in His spot, drinking His last Red Bull and so on). Atonement is supposed to bring about spiritual cleansing — “wiping the slate clean” was what we called it in Hebrew school — because God is merciful and forgiving (as long as you don’t fuck with His shit), and genuine repentance must ultimately be rewarded with forgiveness and love.
If only I believed in any of this crap.
I’ve been atone deaf for what feels like forever. The last time I seriously observed the high holy days was almost 50 years ago when I was in the second grade. I remember going to shul in Brooklyn with my grandfather, having absolutely no idea what I was doing there, other than trying to be a good Jewish boy. I also remember being scared to death of God. I thought if I didn’t pray along with Pop, something really, really bad was going to happen, like the Holocaust 2, starring Zombie Hitler.
So I imitated Pop the best I could, bobbing my head back and forth to the rhythm of his davening and occasionally muttering a Hebrew word here (“Adonoi”) and there (“Elohim”) to show God that I at least knew His name. At the end of the service, Pop said how proud he was of me and held my hand on the walk home where we subsequently ate like pigs.
That, of course, was the best part. “Breaking fast” by stuffing our fat faces with bagels and lox and whitefish salad and sponge cake and my grandmother’s noodle kugel was my version of hitting the jackpot on Christmas morning, and the only remnant of this holiday that I still observe.
This rainbow cookie is for you, Pop.