Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yom Kippur: What's the point? (repost)

In Game 1 of the 1965 World Series, Sandy Koufax didn't pitch because it was Yom Kippur. Although I'd like to think he was being a good Jewish boy, he might also have been observing to avoid hearing his mother say, "Sanford, you should be ashamed of yourself."

I honestly don't know why we Jews have a special High Holy Day set aside for atonement. What's the point? Even after we break the fast, the guilt is still going to be there. It never goes away. I feel guilt for things as ridiculous as forgetting to pay equal homage to both the Feast of San Gennaro and Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah got its own blog post; the Feast got nothing. Every year Yom Kippur comes around and every year I'm still atoning for the same transgressions. Am I supposed to clear all of this up by doubling up on guilt when I fast? Do I fast so that the my empty stomach exacerbates the usual guilt that typically results in loose bowel movements?

I say, "Oy."

My mother used to have -perhaps, still has- a plug-in wall candle...a nightlight with Hebrew inscribed around the candle in the center. I didn't know what it said but knew it was somber. Every Yom Kippur, my mother would turn off the kitchen light and plug this candle into the wall in honor of her father who had passed away shortly after I was born and who my middle name is after. Grandpa Stanley. I didn't really know him. That candle made me think of him, though. I'd look at pictures of him singing -he was supposedly a phenomenal singer and musician. I'd look at his old pipes sitting on our bookshelf. And then, I'd fast in order to induce guilt for never having known him. How dare I?

Jewry of the world, hear me: Yom Kippur is overkill! Cool it down, people. Can we simply come to an agreement that Yom Kippur should be the one guilt-free day of the year since the other 364 are spent feeling guilty? I'm not sure if Yom Kippur is designed to bear the burden of the generations past, but if so, it's working and it's annoying.

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