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Will The Real Yom Kippur Please Stand Up

I began Yom Kippur by rushing home from work Friday night. Frankly I am sick of all this self-assessment as it coincides with the performance appraisal period at work. It’s been weeks now of going over past accomplishments when I’d much rather focus on doing new stuff.

The fast started at 6:35 p.m. and I walked in at 6:31 exactly. (For more background on the significance of this number, check out my husband’s posts on the subject, collected here, or mine, here, herehere and here.)

I was determined to honor the entire fast as opposed to previous years where I ended it early telling myself “we get the idea by now” but this manifested itself in a rather disgusting display of me eating chicken wings and hot dogs in front of the refrigerator for approximately three minutes straight followed by one more minute of gulping down drink to wash down the salty food.

Thankfully God had mercy on me and I made it through the fast just fine. Where I often have mild dizziness now, miraculously this was absent and I felt almost 100% normal throughout the day.

If you’re not familiar with Yom Kippur you are not supposed to eat or drink anything for 25 hours while God judges you. This however did not stop Whole Foods from insensitively dreaming up a Yom Kippur cake. There is no need for me to beat up on them any further for this idiocy as all you have to do is take one look at it and you know they are incredibly tone-deaf when it comes to marketing this holiday.

In any case I spent the first part of the morning futzing on my computer. Keep in mind that I have a religious resolution not to do any work on Saturday and definitely not on Yom Kippur and this year the two coincided. At the same time I am an insanely computer addicted workaholic. So my method of handling the situation was to futz with new apps. 

Apparently this did not satisfy God as I clicked on a sophisticated phishing email, which is very not like me at all. I ended up spending a lot of time and aggravation Yom Kippur morning fixing the problem. 

Of course everyone had a field day telling me that I shouldn’t be on the computer on Yom Kippur and see what the result is, ha ha ha. My assessment was that God was doing two things with this neat hat trick. Thing number one was to say, you wanted to be busy on the computer, now I’ll keep you busy — sort of teaching me a lesson that I needed to learn (you can spare one day a year to reflect, even if you don’t want to). Thing number two was to prevent me from being tempted to do more things on the computer, because I absolutely and totally was not and limited myself to simply reading stuff online after that. 

We proceeded to synagogue which for me was a wholly disappointing and suffocating experience as usual. It’s not the fault of the synagogue or the rabbi or any of that. The air is heavy with judging, and people being cliquey, and I honestly just can’t deal with all of that. The sole exception is the ceremony where they bring the Torah around for us to kiss. That makes the whole journey worth it.

Onward to the afternoon and thankfully the air was beautiful, crisp and cool. We took a walk to the park. Along the way I expressed my aggravation and irritation and my husband asked me to think of five things I was grateful for. He’s a pretty smart guy because this got me out of my self-pitying mood.

But not before I spent a few minutes crying and sniffling. Here again God stepped in…I was embarrassed at my sadness and probably awful-looking face and reached into my bag to get lipstick and concealer. The concealer went on fine but somehow I dropped or lost my favorite Revlon red. 

As I stood there with the cap of my favorite lipstick in hand, I thought to myself, how much more aggravating can this day get and wound up scouring the grass to find it. Of course this did not happen until I remembered one important thing: You’re not supposed to put makeup on during Sabbath and particularly Yom Kippur when we are supposed to be presenting ourselves before God in a humbled state.

That lightbulb went off in my brain and I told my husband, who promptly asked me if I had looked 300 yards behind me (I hadn’t) where the lipstick was sitting in plain sight.

Of course.

There were a few hours left in the fast and we went home. We spent the rest of the time hanging around, and then went over to our neighbors who are kind enough to invite us every year.

Their warmth and welcoming attitude are the highlight of Yom Kippur for me. They are part of an older generation of people who struggled a lot and who have no fancy airs about them. 

I sat in the back, chugging Coca-Cola and eating kugel (they are Sephardic and made a special effort to include one Ashkenazi item, and it was great). 

Life is not meant to be happy in the way most people think of happy. Strange for a marketer to say, but it’s not about the joy of consuming.

Real happy comes from feeling a sense of meaning in your life. (Read Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote as a survivor of the Holocaust). I looked at these people sitting all around me and realized that I do not fit in with them, as I have never really fit in with anyone, and that is pretty much the way I like it.

Meaning for me comes from being an observer, and learning from the things I observe by writing them down for you.

Meaning comes from me learning to be there for my family instead of only buried in the books. 

I am Yom Kippured-out, performance appraisaled-out, and overall worn out from all the judging going on these past few weeks.

But even in my hung-over state I feel good for having extracted the central lessons that I need to keep on growing in my life.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions my own. All rights reserved. Photo by Daniel Reche via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

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