Fasting is the easy part

Kol Nidre, Leo Bar, Pix in Motion

As Yom Kippur is drawing near, I am grateful for a quiet day of reflection and preparations. Since the kids were born,  I have not had that great luxury. Now that I am self-employed, I don’t have more free time (starting a business is a lot of work), but I have a lot more flexibility in how I manage that time. So today, the to-do list is looming large, but I am making a point of ignoring it to read, reflect on Torah, and most importantly, to take stock of the side of myself I am not exactly proud of.

Is there such thing as an easy and meaningful fast?

Call me masochistic, I believe Yom Kippur should be hard. Abstaining from food and drink, spending long hours in schul, on an empty tomach, trying to squeeze an Amidah in while keeping an eye on the kids, getting home and feeding them, playing with them and trying to stay patient as you grow weaker and hungrier is challenging. And yet, as difficult as it is to fast for 25 hours, that’s the easy part.

The hard part is to truly admit the ugly things I’ve allowed myself to do, to let that embarrassment and disappointment come to the surface and face them. As I try to sit and take a deep breath to draft the list of people whom I have hurt, offended, or wronged, everything inside of me is fighting against it: “It’s OK, you’re only human, don’t worry about it, everybody else falters too. Let’s go read a book! Study Torah even, that’s a worthy thing to do, right? C’mon, just send an e-mail or something, and move on to something a little more enjoyable, life is short!” But I want to sit with these feelings, picture the faces of people I have treated unfairly. I want to try to feel what they must feel when I am selfish, forgetful, impatient…

I know that a blanket, Cc-all apology, can never be a real apology, that it can yield no true forgiveness or healing.

I know I must dig deeper. Go where it hurts. Otherwise, I am merely checking boxes on a “how to be a model Jew” to-do list, giving the appearance of doing the work without actually doing the work.

“To not bear a grudge”

This painful exercise has yielded some expected lessons, and some more surprising ones:

– I sincerely want to apologize to my husband and children for letting stress that has nothing to do with them affect how I talked to them and treated them. That is unfair, harmful behaviour, and it needs to change.

– I sincerely want to apologize to my wonderful teacher, Reb Arie, for not staying in touch after the wedding. It has been years, and the embarrassment only grows with time. This one is ripe for action.

– I sincerely want to apologize to my family for never making the time to stay in touch. They know how much I love them, and care about them, but still I should not take them for granted.

– I have so many people to apologize to for not following up on something I said I would do, I must not be nearly as reliable a person as I thought I was. That also needs to change.

But, I also learned that

– There are a few people I do not feel ready to seek forgiveness from, because I do still hold resentment against them, and feel justified. These people are usually ones with whom the aggravating situation is ongoing, and I am not finding in my heart the desire to rise above, knowing full well that I will have to either forgive and find higher grounds on which to base our relationship, or accept the limitations of that relationship and find ways to work around them, some day.

– My heart is so, so full of anger, disappointment and sadness. I have a lot of grieving to do, a lot more than I thought.

We’ll see where these are at by this time next year. In the meantime, I hope the Great Book of Life has a “work-in-progress” section.

Have a beautiful, meaningful fast.

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