I’m not the most observant Jew who has ever lived, but I do adhere to the traditions of the High Holidays. I also have my own tradition and that is to come home from Kol Nidre services as hungry as if I had spent the previous 24 hours fasting rather than feasting. Because I can’t eat, it’s all I want to do. Two Yom Kippurs ago, I got to invoke the “medically necessary” clause of eating on Yom Kippur; I was six or so months pregnant. Last year, my daughter was just starting to crawl and schlepping her tiny body around didn’t burn much of my energy. Fasting was as easy as it can be.
That brings us to this year. As I carried my 21-month-old’s 23-pound self to the car after a tot Rosh Hashanah service with thoughts of a big bowl of honey-coated Greek yogurt dancing in my head in response to my growling stomach, I got worried: How am I going to do this on Yom Kippur?
See, nowadays I expend a huge amount of energy chasing, carrying, and cleaning up after my 21-month-old. Most days I am faint with hunger by 11:30 a.m. even if I had breakfast at 8. The idea of going longer than three hours without a small refueling worries me.
Is this a legitimate concern or am I just being a baby? Since it’s my first Yom Kippur as the mother of a toddler, I can honestly say I don’t know the answer to that question.
And that leads to another: Am I a bad Jew for considering breaking my fast before I even start it?
My husband says no. He knows that I get shaky and weak from not eating and says that if I need a few bites to sustain me in order to properly care for our child, I shouldn’t think twice about it. Still, I think about all the moms – especially to more than one child – who never doubt their ability and I feel guilty.
I think I’ll go with a happy medium and a clichéd mom saying: We’ll see. If hunger is making parenthood miserable, I might help myself to a slice of challah to curb the discomfort – and remember to throw in an extra piece of bread at tashlich next year.