You gotta love Facebook memes.
They even find the humor in fasting, like these posts:
“Yom Kippur is the one day of the year you don’t have to lie to your calorie tracking device.”
“Does it really count as fasting if when it’s over, you eat three days worth of food in seven minutes?”
“I can’t wait to break the Yom Kippur fast I’m not keeping.”
And my favorite, “Let the hunger games begin.”
The holy day is so much more than a fast. It’s sitting for hours in synagogue. It’s feeling remorse and facing regrets. It’s praying and repenting. It’s taking time for introspection and meditation.
It’s a clean slate. A new page. Your soul gets a do-over.
What will you do with it?
Some don’t do a whole lot. They skip synagogue or say a quick and impulsive, “I’m sorry” to a few random relatives or post a generic, “If I hurt anyone, I’m sorry” message on Facebook to all their friends and followers.
We only get to do this once a year, so why not shoot for sincerity? Why not make it count?
Tzvi Freeman wrote an article, “DIY Soul Repair,” for chabad.org. He wrote Yom Kippur is a time to detect our faults and make the effort to change. He calls Yom Kippur a day set aside for “self-repair.” So, basically, you’ll only get out of this holy period what you put into it.
He explores the words Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1792 to 1863) wrote about damage and repair of the soul:
“All human behavior, including self-damaging behavior, is driven by pleasure. That pleasure-association persists as a sort of being of its own, burrowing itself deeper and deeper into the human psyche every time it arises in memory, as that neuro-connection is consistently reinforced. That makes it easier for the person to fall into the same behavior a second time, and then repeatedly after that, each time further reinforcing that neurological bond.”
The behavior is like a groove in a record album that keeps getting deeper the more we use it.
Face it, we must get some pleasure from our anger outbursts, gossip rants and gluttony. The key to real change is to feel the sting when we engage in those behaviors and feel pleasure when we’re calm, kind and satisfied.
“Repair, then, is to unpair,” Freeman wrote. “To dissociate that sense of pleasure from that behavior. To pull the soul out of that body.”
How does real change happen? In increments. Slow and steady. You go 15 minutes without gossiping. You go one hour without criticizing anyone. You go one day without eating junk food.
My friends in 12-step recovery programs taught me to routinely take a personal inventory of myself, to examine my defects of character, to actually list my resentments, fears and faults. When you see them in black and white, it’s easier to see the exact nature of your own wrongs – not the faults of others, no matter what they might have said or done or failed to do.
Even if your part of the divorce or the job ending or the friendship vanishing was only 10%, you clean up your small part 100% and everything changes. Well, at least you change and that’s a big victory since you’re the only person you can change.
Once you admit your wrongs to God, to yourself, then to someone else, you grow in humility, not humiliation. There’s a big difference. I once read humility defined as “perpetual quietness of heart.” I’d put that on my bucket list.
I constantly ask God to remove from me whatever stands in the way of my being most useful to others. No matter how many times I pray for God to change me, I’m still a bundle of flaws. But perhaps, some of those flaws keep me hungry for God so that I continue to pray and meditate.
Yom Kippur is a chance to be free from ego. My friends in recovery call it “freedom from the bondage of self.” There’s an old saying, “A man all wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.”
At Yom Kippur, we unwrap. We expose what’s in that small package and surrender our smallness.
Only then can we grow our souls and become a true gift for others.