Why are you fasting today?
If Yom Kippur an important day in your year, how does it influence the rest of your year?
Biblical sources for fasting on Yom Kippur:
(כט) וְהָיְתָ֥ה לָכֶ֖ם לְחֻקַּ֣ת עוֹלָ֑ם בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הַ֠שְּׁבִיעִי בֶּֽעָשׂ֨וֹר לַחֹ֜דֶשׁ תְּעַנּ֣וּ אֶת־נַפְשֹֽׁתֵיכֶ֗ם וְכָל־מְלָאכָה֙ לֹ֣א תַעֲשׂ֔וּ הָֽאֶזְרָ֔ח וְהַגֵּ֖ר הַגָּ֥ר בְּתוֹכְכֶֽם׃ (ל) כִּֽי־בַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּ֛ה יְכַפֵּ֥ר עֲלֵיכֶ֖ם לְטַהֵ֣ר אֶתְכֶ֑ם מִכֹּל֙ חַטֹּ֣אתֵיכֶ֔ם לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה תִּטְהָֽרוּ׃ (לא) שַׁבַּ֨ת שַׁבָּת֥וֹן הִיא֙ לָכֶ֔ם וְעִנִּיתֶ֖ם אֶת־נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶ֑ם חֻקַּ֖ת עוֹלָֽם׃
(29) And this shall be to you a law for all time: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall practice self-denial; and you shall do no manner of work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. (30) For on this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all your sins; you shall be clean before the LORD. (31) It shall be a sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall practice self-denial; it is a law for all time.
On Yom Kippur afternoon, we will read the book of Jonah. In the third chapter of Jonah, he warns the people of Nineveh that God is going to destroy their city because of their "evil ways." They decide to fast, and in this case, God relented and did not destroy Nineveh. The Talmudic text below highlights the fact that God noticed their change in behavior, not necessarily their fasting.
(4) Jonah started out and made his way into the city the distance of one day’s walk, and proclaimed: “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (5) The people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast, and great and small alike put on sackcloth.
The Rabbis chose the text below to be read on Yom Kippur morning. Isaiah teaches that fasting is not enough, and ultimately it is not what God wants from us.
How does this text both support and negate our fasting today?
In the book Days of Awe by S.Y. Agnon, Arthur Green's foreword explains the patterns of Jewish life.
"But wherein lies the survival secret of the Days of Awe? Why should the synagogue be so full on these days and yet so empty when we commemorate nothing less than the Exodus from Egypt or the giving of the Torah? The answer is that the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) do not quite belong exclusively to the yearly cycle. They partake of the life cycle as well, and this is their secret. They are the Jew's annual confrontation with mortality, a time to pinch oneself and say, "Thank God I'm still alive."
"But we come together on the Yamim Noraim, skeptics and agnostics along with pious believers and earnest seekers, to gratefully acknowledge that we are still here, and to admit that our survival has not been all our own doing."
The ancient understanding of the Yamim Noraim is that beginning with Elul and ending on Yom Kippur, these days represent the forty days that Moses spent atop Mount Sinai arguing with God not to destroy Israel. Moses smashed the first set of the Ten Commandments after seeing the golden calf that his people had created. Arthur Green points out the significance of the second set of commandments,
"By the time of the second tablets, God had learned a lesson about dealing with these humans. This time the tablets were to be a joint divine-human project. Moses does the carving, God does the writing. Every Jew receives or fashions those second tablets on or around Yom Kippur. This is the season when each of us renegotiates our covenant with God. We carve our second tablets, remaking the infinite divine demand into one with which we are prepared to live. This is the time when we decide what we will keep of tradition and what we will set aside for a while...It is not only God who makes major decisions in this season of the year. God may decide whether we will live, but we have to decide how we will live the life we are given."
What will you be renegotiating with God (or with others in your life) this high holiday season?
How will that negotiation effect how you live your life in 5780?
G'mar hatimah tovah, May you be inscribed in your "renegotiated" book of your life this year!
Some fun food for thought (online billboards), from Jewbelong.com
"At least you can wear your skinny jeans tomorrow."
"Even if you only appreciate Yom Kippur because there's no line at the deli."
"Even God can't forgive you for lying to your mom."
"You're already intermittently fasting anyways."