The Jewish Day of Atonement was this past Saturday. I was craving it since early August… if craving is the correct term to be used in reference to a fast. I felt that my system needed a rest from the nutrients and complex foods it digested this year. And also right before the beginning of the fast, I felt a powerful urge to hurt myself with an intense divine pain, like getting a tattoo, and there is nothing like the fast of Yom Kippur for that purpose.
In essence, however, fasting on the Day of Atonement is meant to be a sign of one’s deep regret for the sins he or she did during the past year. And since doing anything at all on this holy day is strictly forbidden (anything from driving a car to braiding your hair), all you’re left with is sleeping and praying. The purpose of this day is to keep you focused on repenting for your sins and asking forgiveness from the Higher Power so that you may start the new year with a clean slate. Some even take a vow of silence for the 25-hour long fast so that no evil tongue may be spoken. My mom tried it and failed.
Of course, nothing in Judaism condones endangering your life (if any rabbi ever told you otherwise, he ought to be excommunicated), so if you faint in the middle of the fast or if you’re on prescription medication, you’re entitled to a permission from your rabbi to not fast. Both my mom and my aunt received such a permission as they both experienced life-threatening episodes on their fast in previous years, and were prescribed strict regiments and rations of food for the day – something like 20 grams of dry foods every nine minutes, and a shot-glass of water every four minutes.
I am 163 cm tall and weigh 43.5 Kg, which translates into pretty underweight. Also, because I suffer from low blood pressure, I would assume that I could also be exempt from fasting, but I’m not because my life is not at risk and also because I don’t care to receive an exemption. Like I said, this fast was a necessity, and right before the fast, it became an emergency when I started looking for zits to pop or scabs to pick in an attempt to draw blood.
As the fast started, with tears in my eyes, I lit the candles for the Sabbath Queen and Yom Kippur. Then, I proceeded to doing nothing, except for tapping into the hunger that crept into my belly, took over my lungs and zapped my heart into a fit of palpitations.
I couldn’t fall asleep at night. Instead, I listened to the pigeons croaking and the stray cats wailing when I felt a sudden pressure, like someone was squeezing my brain with his palms on either side of my head. It felt so palpable that I actually jumped up and shook my head – an act that proves to be risky when you have low blood pressure and are running low on fluids. My head started spinning violently.
The following day I found myself lying on my back with my belly stuck to the mattress. My lower ribs and my hips protruded out of my midsection like crowbars. Aside from the powerful hunger attacks every hour or so, my head was still being a carousel.
And I loved it.
I loved every minute of it. Any time the pain peaked, I curled into a fetal position, closed my eyes and breathed deeply.
Take in the pain, said the inner child. Embrace it.
At the end of the fast, my family and I went to the synagogue to hear the shofar, the final blow of the horn, as the Gates of Heaven closed after receiving all the prayers of repent and apologies from the worshippers. I thanked the Mother Goddess for blessing me by sending me to earth to be born through a Jewish woman’s womb, and for giving me this day to cleanse my body through the holy ritual of self-inflicted pain.
Call me a masochist, but I love it as much as I love the pain of the tattoo ink gun. There is too much pain in this life that I suffer from, so if this particular pain gives me pleasure, let me enjoy it.
Peace, love and may the Scales of Divine Justice tip in our favor