Ever since I can remember, my parents abstained from imposing their own sets of beliefs onto me. Rather, they instilled in me a core set of values and morals to draw from and then left me the space to carve my own path. Naturally there were exceptions:
1) Never neglect your studies; always take them seriously and make them a top priority.
2) Remain steadfast in your observance of Judaism and make sure that both the religious and cultural aspects of Judaism remain in your life.
These two seemingly unrelated exceptions had never presented a conflict in which my observance of Judaism would force me to neglect my studies (or visa versa) – that is, such a conflict hadn’t arisen until today.
Oct. 1 was Yom Kippur (known in English as “the day of atonement”), the most significant Jewish holiday. During Yom Kippur, Jews are expected to fast from nightfall of the previous day to nightfall on the day of the holiday. Normally, I’d be the model Jew, shunning food and drink like Nicole Richie and praying with the fervor of a Tibetan monk, but this year there was a problem. In addition to being Yom Kippur, it was also Monday, meaning that I had four classes (only one of which – Hebrew – was cancelled). I was faced with a difficult decision: skip classes or skip temple? I had to ask myself which big G mattered more – God or G.P.A.?
I decided to make a compromise – I would attend all of my classes and I would fast. Now my “compromise” might sound like more of a cop out, but I assure you that attending classes from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. with no food or drink in your system is harder than it may seem. Other Jews chose to spend the day differently. Rather than spending the day “atoning” for their sins, these students used Yom Kippur as a way to take the day off. They missed all of their classes, citing “religious observance” as the reasoning. Meanwhile, they slept until 2 p.m. and consequently spent the afternoon drinking mojitos and watching a marathon of Mel Gibson movies. Anyway, in case you are still unconvinced of whether my actions on Yom Kippur warrant admiration or indifference, I have decided to chronicle my day so as to give you a little taste of a day where I didn’t get to taste anything at all:
10 a.m. – Going into my first class of the day, I figured that my teacher would go easy on the notes in light of the Jewish students missing class. But as I walked into class, my teacher announced how important today’s lecture would be. Apparently, what we were about to learn would not appear in the textbook and therefore that class would be the only chance to take notes on this subject. The guy next to me whispered offhandedly to me, “sucks for the people who missed class today.”
“Indeed it does suck,” I retorted sarcastically, “for the Jews who decided to ‘skip’ class today. Serves them right for thinking that fasting and atoning for their sins all day takes precedence over notes that weren’t even important enough to be included in the textbook.” The guy, not sensing my sarcasm, winked at me and went back to taking notes. It was at that point that I deluded myself into thinking that the teacher and many of the students might be anti-Semitic.
11 a.m. – Every Monday, my girlfriend and I have a tradition of going to the Meliora for lunch. Being the gentleman that I am, I wasn’t going to let my fast get in the way of her happiness.
11:05 a.m. – As I approached the entrance of the Meliora, I
saw that the special was “egg cheese and ham croissant.” I turned to a chef walking by and smugly said, “Capitalizing on the non-Jewish crowd, touch.” The chef gave me a weird look and quickly walked away.
11:14 a.m. – I looked at the flowers at the table and contemplated, “Can I eat foods that are considered inedible to humans?”
11:21 a.m. – My girlfriend’s chews of her cheese burger are like an eagle’s talons being plunged into my back
12:30 p.m. – I create a rap song about food, “I like my hamburgers medium rare and if you don’t like that I really don’t care. I like my hot dogs on the grill and I’ll give you some soda if you don’t spill. I like my French fries nice and hot, I like junk food I like it a lot.”
12:32 p.m. – I get kicked out of the library for rapping too loudly.
2:45 p.m. – My girlfriend suggests that she can put on mango flavored chap stick and that we can kiss as a substitute for eating.
2:47 p.m. – My girlfriend slaps me in the face for trying to chew on her lips.
3:50 p.m. – During my second to last class “Dante’s Divine Comedy,” we talk about the sin of gluttony and I find within myself a renewed spirit to finish the fast.
5:12 p.m. – My suitemate sends me a text message asking if I want to watch the food network with her after class.
6:31 p.m. – Seeing that the sun has essentially set, I head toward Douglass to break the fast in style – pulled pork wraps!
6:36 p.m. – As I take my first bite of my delectable meal, my girlfriend quickly looks up from her laptop and yells “don’t eat that, sunset isn’t until 6:38 p.m!”
“Too late,” I retort with a smile on my face, “I’ll have to atone for this sin next year.”
Schwartz can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.