In Which When You Think It’s Over It’s Not Over

The Chance to Eat

by Jeff Goldberg

Yom Kippur is over, meaning I’m just coming off of a twenty-four hour fast. I thought about skipping dinner so I could get the earlier bus home, but I decided the chance to eat would be worth suffering one more hour in New Jersey.

On Thursday someone rolled her eyes at me and said, “Enjoy your holiday,” in response to the news that I would be missing an otherwise-mandatory training event on Saturday. (I do this thing that requires training. That’s all I’m willing to get into now.) I’m pretty sure the eye-roll meant she thought I was using my day of fasting and atonement as an excuse to ditch the training event. I said, “Dude.” (Yes: “Dude.” It’s a classic.) “Dude,” I said, “that’s like scheduling something on Christmas.” As she disappeared into the subway, she said, “Christmas.”

I’m not sure what to make of this. What did she mean by repeating the word “Christmas”? Was she pondering the vast importance of Christmas to her and realizing how important Yom Kippur must be to me? Or was she scoffing at the notion that any holiday could be as important as Christmas in terms of getting days off of stuff? Either way, I’m pretty sure this whole trivial interchange qualifies as the most anti-Semitism I’ve encountered since moving to New York.

This became my main focus of thought for the next ten or eleven hours I spent in temple.

  • At first I tried to analyze exactly how anti-Semitic the woman was being.
  • Then I realized she probably wasn’t being anti-Semitic at all.
  • Then I decided I could use some actual anti-Semitism in my life, since according to my girlfriend I’m always going on about it.
  • Then I thought about screenplay ideas because I’m supposed to come up with one for this class I’m taking.
  • Then I tried to pay attention to the Rabbi.

Creative thought gets more difficult as the day goes on.

Throughout Yom Kippur, the congregation repeats two liturgies called the Ashamnu and the Al Cheit. These are lists of sins for which we ask group forgiveness. And not sins like, “We have murdered, we have burnt down our dry cleaning business in order to collect the insurance money,” but a bit smaller, things like, “We have gossiped, we have given wanton looks, we have acted callously, we have been prideful.”

Here’s my question to you: Who else has sat in the Yom Kippur service and used these prayers as a checklist? Anybody? Please don’t tell me I’m alone on this.

“Desperately Wanting (acoustic)” — Better Than Ezra (mp3)

“Come Down (acoustic)” — Bush (mp3)

I know a lot of words have been spilled over the reason for not eating, but in my personal case I fast for twenty-four hours so I can stop being such a schmuck. With a full belly, I read this list of sins like a recitation of a good day’s antics. But after repeating it ten times and as my last meal stretches farther into the past, I take it more seriously. I start regretting all my wanton looks, my callous behavior. I even wonder if I’m guilty of the bigger ones, like being “treasonable.” I mean, I haven’t been treasonable. But I start feeling sorry about it anyway. And then there those that I just can’t avoid, like sins I have done “knowingly and unknowingly.” When I start the service I don’t feel guilty about those unknowingly sins, because–come on–I didn’t know. But towards the end I realize there might be a whole lot of those for which I need to apologize.

But even so, I always struggle with the one about being prideful.

The problem with the sin of pride is that I’m proud of it. I think my pride is awesome. It’s not my fault. I’m sure people who commit the sin of being too apologetic are really apologetic about it. Every year, I end up getting into an argument with God, trying to convince the unresponsive deity that pride is an important human trait, that without pride humans would accomplish nothing. Music, great architecture, wooing a woman and reproducing the species: none of it would happen without pride. Around hour twenty-two of the fast, however, I break down. I’m willing to apologize even for my pride, if I could just have a glass of water.

Jeff Goldberg is a writer living in New York. You can find his work in the recently published Apocalypse Reader, and his first novel is forthcoming in the spring. You can read more of his work on This Recording here, and here.

9 thoughts on “In Which When You Think It’s Over It’s Not Over

  1. A. Yes – whatever her beliefs or intentions may be, that woman was being decidedly anti-semitic. So obviously anti-semitic, in fact, that if I was her supervisor, I’d have a hard time not firing her on the spot for being such a dumb-ass.

    B. No one should ever get any religious holiday off automatically. Everyone should have a chance to take off a number of days in which they choose the dates. Yom Kippur? Great. Christmas? Great. Groundhog Day? Super! Whatever – just give a couple weeks notice, K? (Oh, and ideally HR would be smart enough not to schedule something mandatory on such a huge religious holiday – right?)

    C. How, HOW can anyone still be religious after everything we’ve all witnessed? Religion is like a joke that gets told day after day, but no one remembers the freaking punchline. Do you want to know what the punchline is? God doesn’t exist! Just be nice to others because IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO!!!! AAAARGH! What is so fucking hard about that? I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone!

    Thanks for letting me vent. Hope you enjoyed your freaking latkes. They looked freaking good. Even though they’re really from this freaking website:

  2. Sunbreaks wants you to be able to take time off to atone, but then slaps you across the face for observing. Fastest mood swing I’ve seen in . . . No, I see mood swings like that pretty often.

    Anyway, as a fellow member of the tribe, I personally take sick satisfaction in the lack of sensitivity or awareness of my non-Jewish friends or colleagues. I think one of the finest traits of being a Jew is being a touch arrogant, don’t you think?

    Which gets us to that little issue of PRIDE . . . I’m with you. Pride gets me through the day. Pride is what prevents me from embracing my keen desire to become a total slacker, eat lots of yummy food and gain about 100 pounds. Thank G-d for pride.

    Jeff, honey, I’m proud of you.

  3. Better get your apologies into Kevin Griffin before Rosh Hashanah.
    That’s not Howie Day, it’s Better Than Ezra.

    Retentively yours,

  4. I’m only leaving a comment because it’s the seventh one. But I’m looking for a bandname, or a very cool word, preferably with 7 or 14 letters. Does anybody here at the fabric of the universe has any suggestions?

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