What’s amazing is that on any given day, we can go hours without thinking of food. It is not uncommon for a busy mom to arrive at late afternoon and realize she did not eat breakfast OR lunch.
But, on Yom Kippur - simply because we cannot eat - our thoughts and energy are often consumed by food.
Human beings are driven by the need to thrive in the physical world. We work out. We plan our meals. We count the hours of sleep we need. Many of us are consumed with taking care of our physical selves.
On Yom Kippur, quite similar to Shabbat, we are asked to set aside the physical – or, in the case of Yom Kippur – to overcome the physical and focus our attention on the spiritual. Yom Kippur is a reminder of what is always there but often neglected. And, fasting helps us reconnect to G-d and our innate spiritual drives.
The tremendous task after Yom Kippur is to continue to nourish the soul while maintaining care of our physical being. We must keep the pathway to G-d free of weeds while ensuring that we take care of the rest of the garden as well.
Fasting has occurred in Judaism throughout history. Queen Esther asked the Jewish people to fast on her behalf for three days prior to her unsolicited visit to the King. Again, in the Purim story, the Jews fasted on the 13th of Adar in preparation for their fight against Haman. The Torah tells us that before soldiers go to war, they are to spend the day prior in a fast. It is a symbol in the physical world that, ultimately, our fate lies in G-d’s hands.
Nothing is asked of us without intention and the fasts within the Jewish year are no exception. Taking care of our physical selves requires a lot of attention and energy. During a fast, we can utilize that energy for spiritual outreach.
With self-discipline, we experience triumph over our physical longings. We become closer to G-d when we “leave our bodies behind”. We are able to focus on what lies within - once you clear away the outer layers.
On Yom Kippur, during our fast, we can focus entirely on prayer, contemplation and our relationship with G-d. Fasting allows us to atone, leads us toward change and humbles us before the Almighty.
Use this year’s fast for a spiritual detox. Even if the words G-d or prayer make you uncomfortable, fasting affords you the opportunity for introspection, contemplating life and motivation to rid yourself of negative habits.
Make amends with mistakes from your past and set the tone for the year ahead.
May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.