Yom Kippur is the apex of the Jewish holiday calendar primarily due to its once-a-year opportunity to wipe the year’s transgressions clean in a big blast of atonement. But for many Jews, myself included, Yom Kippur is especially notable for its 24-hour fast.
I’ve been doing the annual YK fast since my teens, and while it’s not the easiest thing in the world, I don’t find it overly difficult to skip a couple of meals (and between-meal snacks…). Besides, I spend most of the day in synagogue, so it’s not like I’m spending the whole 24 hours thinking about food.
Except this year, I got an extra reminder that I am very hungry. As part of the generous MetroPass program offered by the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest, I was welcomed to High Holiday services at Congregation Beth Hatikvah, a Reconstructionist temple in Summit. The people who checked me in were friendly, the ushers led me to a front-and-center seat, and the service combined a lot of the tradition I was familiar with with some new angles on High Holiday observance.
Then came the Yom Kippur sermon, when many rabbis take advantage of the full house to address a topic that means a lot to them. I don’t know Rabbi Amy Small very well (this was only my 2nd time at CBH), but from a few comments and glances at the literature available at the temple (and the Favorite Recipes section of the website, I gathered that issues about food production and consumption are important. So her sermon focused on food: where it comes from, how agri-business and processed food can affect both our nutritional and spiritual relationship to what we eat, etc. It was a good sermon, and one that made sense in the context of Judiasm, where the kosher laws are at the forefront of several thousand years of Jewish practice.
But as I was taking in what the rabbi had to say, it was hard not to have one key thought: All of that food she’s talking about sure sounds good! Regardless of what my brain may or may not think about the whole-food movement or the religious politics of consumption, at that moment I just kept getting more and more hungry.
The sermon came to an end and the service moved on to the central task of atonement. But for the rest of the day, I couldn’t help having a little chuckle at the idea of a room full of very hungry people listening to a very focused and detailed talk about food.