by Laura Weisskopf Bleill
On Saturday, I won’t eat.
The fast for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, starts on Friday night and continues until we break it at dinner on Saturday.
Fasting is a part of the ritual of the day of atonement, a day devoted to confession, self-examination and self-denial. “Our fasting on Yom Kippur demonstrates our willingness to submit to discipline. How can we atone for our excesses toward others unless we curb appetites which depend on no one but ourselves?” wrote the Reform rabbis who penned “Gates of the Seasons.”
Fasting is certainly not unique to Judaism; every major religion has fast days or observances of some sort. There is a common thread that fasting helps one communicate better with G-d.
Unfortunately, fasting has the opposite effect on me; instead of focusing my thoughts and prayer, it only makes me think about the food I am not eating. And that makes me feel terrible (guilt is a trait many religions share too!). People are going hungry — children around going hungry — every day in our community. So why can’t I do it for a day?
The answer is that I can, and I have. One of the things that keeps me going is the idea that we will be donating the amount of money “we would have spent on food for the day” to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. The idea of using Yom Kippur to educate our children (and ourselves) about the plight of those who don’t have as much as we do is not new, but every year it seems that the need is increasing – rather than, as is our hope, decreasing.
This month is Hunger Action Month, when foodbanks and hunger relief organizations around the country come together to mobilize the public to support the fight against hunger. As Amy said in her post about joining next week’s SNAP Hunger Challenge, let’s make our voices heard, loud and clear: Hunger is unacceptable.
When I hear the final blast of the shofar (ram’s horn) that signifies the end of Yom Kippur, I will remember that I am the lucky one who will be going to a friend’s house where there will be bountiful spread of goodies.
The shofar is meant to be a wake-up call. This Yom Kippur, may it wake us up to the fact that hunger continues to be a modern-day plague all around us. But instead of feeling helpless, however, let the shofar also be a wake-up call that we have the power to make a difference.
Laura Weisskopf Bleill, a co-founder of chambanamoms.com, next week will share the recipe for the challah french toast casserole she is making for break-the-fast. She writes “Being a Jew in C-U,” a column about being a Jewish suburban girl in a cornfield, on Thursdays. You can reach her at email@example.com.