Yom Kippur starts tonight, and we here at Kveller have been struggling with it mightily this week. Stephanie wondered how hard it will be to fast while caring for a toddler, and I wrote that I’m not planning to fast. Mayim shared her reasons for fasting, and Jordana created an incredible version of the Viddui, focused on the confessions of parents. (I might print it out and put it in my Siddur before the holiday starts.)
All of these posts, and the comments our readers left, got me thinking. One person wrote the following regarding my decision not to fast: “I hope that she… reexamines her stance on fasting, parenting, Judaism, & the role of Judaism in her home.”
That is precisely what I have done. And am still doing.
Why have I decided not to fast? What does that say about my own commitment to Judaism, to keeping a Jewish home, and to parenting Jewish children? I’ve gone back and forth. I’ve read and written and thought and talked to my husband, my partner in creating our Jewish home and raising Jewish children. I’ve imagined how I would explain such a decision to my daughters. I don’t have a clear answer. Not yet.
My perspective is still evolving, and I hope that it continues to change and develop throughout my life. Right now, here is what I think I believe. I am not a halachic Jew, and I do not profess to be one. As a Reconstructionist Jew, I believe “the past has a vote, but not a veto.” The words of the Torah and the Talmud, and the practices of our ancestors, are central to my understanding of Jewish beliefs and practices, but they aren’t, well, my law.
And so I struggle. I care deeply about integrating Judaism into my life and my parenting in meaningful, relevant ways that reflect my values and those of my husband. We don’t eat pork or shellfish, and we don’t mix milk and meat on the same plate. However, we don’t have two sets of dishes. We light the candles and say the blessings on Friday nights, and we don’t use our computers, watch TV, or run errands on Shabbat, but we will drive in the car and spend money on food that we are going to eat immediately.
My husband and I didn’t randomly choose these lines in the sand of observance; we came to them after years of conversations, years of working to find the right fit for our values.
As for fasting on Yom Kippur, well, I’m still figuring it out, and I’m grateful to have the Kveller community to help me struggle with this. This year, my intention is still not to fast. I’m going to eat as little as possible, and I’m not going to eat for pleasure. Perhaps I’ll feel ok with this choice, perhaps I won’t. And perhaps the most important part of all of this, perhaps the most Jewish decision I can make right now is to continue to care about and struggle with this issue. As for now, I have a lot to think about on this Day of Atonement… as do we all.