Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Different Kind of Yom Kippur

This year, for the first time in my non-Orthodox life, I will not be spending Yom Kippur at my parents' house. Every other year, if I decided not to fast, it meant sneaking a little bit of granola here or there, sipping some water when no one was looking, but otherwise going to shul or at least sleeping and reading.

When I thought about what I wanted to do for Yom Kippur, the answer wasn't immediately obvious. I did take off for Rosh Hashana this year and had a semi-traditional celebration of it -- went to (an Orthodox!) shul, heard the shofar, ate apples/challah and honey.

But I love Rosh Hashana and somehow that kind of celebration felt appropriate, like my autumn would feel empty without it.

Yom Kippur, on the other hand, I do not love. In my head, the words "Yom Kippur" conjure up the image of sitting in a sea of white, my stomach growling, flipping through the pages and counting to see how many we had left. It also elicits the image of lying on the couch, nauseous and dizzy, crying, to weak to even stand; and (frequently) actually vomiting.

A (non Jewish) friend of mine invited me to a party - a barbecue! - on Saturday. When I realized that it was Yom Kippur, I struggled for a little bit with whether or not to accept. Why not? I kept thinking, I want to go! It sounds like fun! But something kept holding me back. A party?! A barbecue on Yom Kippur? It felt wrong. I'm still not sure why I'd have a conscience about these things, but apparently I do.

So I said no. Or rather, I said I'd come after the fast was over.

But I still didn't know what I'd do with the day. Sit around and watch videos? Read books? It all sounded so uninteresting.

And then I came up with an idea. It may seem equally as wrong as going to a party to some people. But to me it feels right. I am going to go camping and hiking.

Why these? I thought about what Yom Kippur is supposed to mean, from my understanding of it and I came up with this -- it's a holiday about becoming purified, becoming closer to God, and ultimately, self-growth.

I don't know what God is anymore, whether or not God even exists, but I do know that the closest to "spiritual" I feel is when I am out in nature, stripped of all the excess technologies that have come to signify life these days. This is intrinsically linked to how I see myself at my most pure - in the quiet of nature, away from my everyday life, thinking about what it means to live and what it means to be me.

It will also be a significant step in a direction of literal healing for me, as a few months ago, I was pretty badly injured, and this will be my first hike since then.

And yes, I will certainly be eating and drinking. But the eating and drinking will be a hiking version of eating and drinking, which is to say that it will be functional, not recreational. Somehow to me that's still an important distinction.

I will report back in a week or so on what it felt like.


Anonymous said...

sounds like a plan. i think I will be smoking a lot of ganja to purify my soul on that day

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. I was wondering why you hadn't (or whether you had) considered Reconstructionist Judaism. No personal god, lots of tradition and social consciousness.

On Her Own said...

Gamzoo- you do that!

Marie -- Thanks! It's kind of weird with me and non-Orthodox branches of Judaism... I like them (sometimes) but, in spite of my issues with Orthodoxy, I still feel this overwhelming sense of comfort and happiness when I do things the Orthodox way. I guess it feels like a return to childhood/my roots in a way.

So I do things like this (a different kind of Yom Kippur) on a personal level and, when I want to participate in a more communal way, I usually go with the more "traditional" branches - Orthodox, or (on occasion) Conservative Judaism.

That said, I'm definitely open to attending a Reconstructionist service and seeing what it's like. Maybe I'll do that soon! We'll see! :-)

Philo said...

I think your plan sounds awsome. How did it go?