Starving for Religion This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year. It’s a day of repenting, a day of service, and a day of fasting. When my family and I sit down to dinner the night before, we all know that this will be our last meal for 24 hours. The waiter comes to take our order and as he goes around the table, I hear the same questions: How big? How much meat? Can I get an extra helping of that? It’s the game plan. Though not fully proven to work, we all follow it: eat as much food as we can tonight, and we won’t be hungry tomorrow.

The holiest day of the year arrives; I wake up and I’m not hungry. Did the plan work? I get dressed and have about 30 minutes until we have to leave for the synagogue. I turn on the TV, thinking it will kill time and take me away from any thought even related to food, but the first thing I see is a commercial. There’s only one day out of the year that I hate Jimmy Dean. This is that day. The way Jimmy describes his two-minute, pop-them-in-the-microwave sausages, I swear, I could find him in his little shack in the woods and strangle the man.

On this day of repenting your sins, even thinking about food is like a sin. I’m sorry to admit that, yes, one year I broke down and ate a Pop-Tart. I couldn’t help it. I was 13. Thirteen-year-olds and Pop-Tarts practically walk hand-in-hand. Yes, I did feel very guilty after I ate it, but I hadn’t eaten in 14 hours. This holiday is just an emotional kosher roller coaster.

We’ve all heard the advice never to do anything or go _____ on an empty stomach. It doesn’t even matter what that blank is; just don’t even think about doing it if you haven’t had your bagel that morning. Well, I know what that blank is for on this day: never go to services for two hours on an empty stomach.

Oy, to kill time during the rabbi’s sermon we all whip out our watches to see how long this one will last. I find ways to pass the time, however. It’s funny, it seems I always break my record for holding my breath on Yom Kippur. We all know while we wait for the service to end that we will soon step out of that sanctuary we’ve learned to call our second home in the past few days and proceed to the bagels and schmere (cream cheese) waiting for us in the lobby.

The horn blows and the race is on. People open the doors casually, but as soon as we’re out of sight of the rabbi, we’re running. The occasional grandma kiss and uncle slap on the back on the way to the holy sanction of food is optional, but not required. Odds are, they’re running along with us. Everyone bombards the table; we all know the routine: grab knife, grab bagel, spread; grab knife, grab bagel, spread. From waiting a whole day just to bite into one to that first bite of that bagelly goodness, it’s just another Yom Kippur for the books. I’m looking forward to next year when I will, again, be starving for religion.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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love said...
Jul. 2, 2011 at 11:14 pm
i really love it .
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