Zalman Tiechtel, rabbi, Chabad Jewish Community Center, 1203 W. 19th St.:
I will be celebrating the Jewish day of atonement by ... fasting!
Fasting is no fun. By mid-morning, I begin to think back to the pre-fast meal, and as the day goes on, all I see is a menu in front of my eyes. At times I wonder: I understand that fasting on Yom Kippur is supposed to make me focus on my soul, but how can I become more spiritual with a growling stomach?
Here’s a meditation I will try this Yom Kippur: Hey! I am a mature and reasonable human being who usually functions pretty well. But today, just because I missed my morning coffee and toast, I can’t think straight. And what's even more ridiculous is that in a couple of hours, it will only take a few mouthfuls of cake to make me forget the whole ordeal. Is a plate of food all that I amount to?
Well, if my body is all there is, then yes, I am what I eat and no more. But in truth, our body is not all there is to you and me. We are much more than the sum of carbohydrates and proteins. I am not just a body. I am a soul. The body is merely a frail, needy and temporary home for the soul, our true identity.
We take our body and its needs very seriously. We can live our lives pursuing our body's cravings and urges, forgetting that there is more to life than our creature comforts. Fasting is a powerful reminder of the fragility and dependence of the body. The hungrier I get, the more I realize how delicate and insubstantial the body really is. There must be more to my life than breakfast.
So on Yom Kippur this year, I will try to become an observer of the body from the point of view of my soul. I will watch my body hunger, pity it for its weakness and frailty, and resolve that in the year to come, I will not make my body and its temporal pleasures the be-all-and-end-all of my life. Rather, I will care for my body so it can serve as a vehicle of goodness, to achieve the mission that my soul was sent to this world to fulfill.
— Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel can be reached at rabbi@JewishKU.com.
David Berkowitz, president Lawrence Jewish Community Center, 917 Highland Drive:
I am planning to spend this Yom Kippur doing three things: fasting, attending services and participating in quiet contemplation.
Yom Kippur is the most holy day in the Jewish calendar, and fasting is what is most associated with it in the minds of both Jews and Gentiles. It is a hard fast from 24 to 27 hours during which time one does not take either food or water. Fasting is a means, not an end. We fast not as penance but in order to fully concentrate on the task of the day, which is to truly repent of your sins and misdeeds before God and to commit to a good faith effort not to repeat them. I have been fasting on Yom Kippur since I was 13 years old, and this will be my 55th year.
Services on Yom Kippur are long and repetitive, building towards a climax much as a symphony. They begin shortly before sundown on Yom Kippur Eve with Kol Nidre, the holiest moment in the Jewish year. They start again fairly early the next morning and continue with a brief break in the late afternoon until after sundown. During this time, we pray for forgiveness from God and pledge to God and ourselves that we will be better in the coming year. I will attend Kol Nidre services and the morning services, but shortly after Yizkor (a memorial service for the departed) I will go home. In this I depart from the standard for observing this day.
Once at home, I prefer to contemplate the past year and ways that I can avoid the mistakes I have made. I may pray personally to God during this time and may also do a little study. Just before breaking my fast I go back to tradition and make some small preparation for building my family’s Sukkah.
— Send e-mail to David Berkowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org