Though nobody enjoys fasting, I happen to be particularly bad at it. I’m the sort of person who needs to eat every couple of hours, even if just a small amount, and I tend to drink lots of water as a matter of course. I therefore dread Yom Kippur each year, and that worry has only increased exponentially as I’ve added more kids to the family mix.
See, back in the day, Yom Kippur was pretty doable. I’d get up that morning, spend a few hours at services, come home, pass out in bed, and pull myself up right when the fast ended. Not fun, but manageable. Now that I have children, however, spending half the day in bed just isn’t an option. I was particularly concerned about how I’d manage the holiday this year, since my twin 2.5-year-old daughters are much more of a handful now than they were a year ago. Yom Kippur with kids, it’s generally acknowledged, isn’t always the reflective day it’s supposed to me.
But at the end of the day, I made it through the fast, thanks in part to my husband’s willingness to jump in and make dinner so I could lie down on the couch when I started feeling woozy. And as I sat down that evening with my victory bagel in hand, I realized that the day hadn’t been so bad after all.
Quite the contrary–it had actually been pretty nice.
The reason? On Yom Kippur, I got a chance to do so many things I normally don’t get, or choose, to do. For example, once we got home from synagogue in the afternoon, we all (kids included) sat down to do some reading. My husband and I read our own books for a while, while our kindergarten-aged son read to the girls. Now I happen to love reading, but I can’t remember the last time I actually got to sit with my face in a book smack in the middle of the day.
Similarly, I got a chance to play with and focus on my kids, without the distraction of throwing in laundry or my cell phone going off–because while, admittedly, I do those things on Shabbat, I don’t on Yom Kippur.
The same holds true for driving–Yom Kippur is the one day of the year that I don’t get in a car, and so while we’d normally drive to synagogue, that day, we walked the mile back and forth. The weather cooperated, which made it pleasant, and while my husband pushed our daughters in their stroller, I got to hang back with my son and have a few heart-to-heart talks.
We spoke about his new school, and how he was still learning the ropes and making new friends. We played a few rounds of “I Spy” and the alphabet game (where you say a letter and have the other person come up with a word in a specific category that starts with it), and I was impressed by my son’s creativity. Sure, we could play those same games on car rides, but we don’t–so I’m glad we got a chance to do so over the holiday.
Though I certainly didn’t enjoy not eating or drinking for over 24 hours this past Yom Kippur, I did come to appreciate the true break it gave me from my usual routine. And that’s something I need to remember going forward.
Because the truth is, I don’t need a fast day to take a walk with my son, or sit on the floor and play with my daughters without jumping up every three minutes to tend to something else. All I need is to focus on what’s most important to me, and get my priorities straight.