June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

On most Jewish holidays, food is at the forefront. From seders to seudahs, every meal is an epic food-fest of astonishing (and almost alarming) proportions. For some Jews, the consumption reaches a level of fressing just short of gluttony, inducing intense food comas and deep shluffy time. If legendary musician Billy Joel were to convert his 1978 hit “Big Shot” into a song about Jewish fressing, the chorus might go like this:

Because you had to be a big nosh, didn’t you

You had to shove it in your mouth

You had to be a big nosh, didn’t you

All your chevra were so grossed out

You had to have the last bite, last night

You know what every seudah’s about

You had to drink a keg full of Sprite

You had to be a big nosh last night

But when Yom Kippur rolls around, the food-fest stops. Although we feast like conquering warriors immediately before Yom Kippur in preparation for the fast, we then press pause on the intake and begin twenty four hours of unyielding self-deprivation. The abstinence is extreme; not a single morsel is consumed. It is the antithesis of a typical Jewish holiday because a holiday without eating is like a wedding without dancing, a funeral without grieving or a farbrengen without… farbrengening.

One of Yom Kippur’s biggest challenges is ignoring the physical and focusing on the spiritual. This is no small task for those Jews who are conditioned, by nature, nurture or both, to obsess about their next meal. Such Jews spend an inordinate amount of time strategizing their next chow-down and often discuss such planning while in the midst of eating an ongoing meal. It takes a certain level of dedication and genius to orchestrate such never-ending noshing so expertly without being labelled a complete and total chazzer. If classic crooner Barry Manilow were to transform his 1977 hit “Looks Like We Made It” into a song about how Jews love eating, the chorus likely would be as follows:

Looks like we ate it

Fed each other on the way

To another meal

Looks like we ate it

Or I thought so ‘til today

Until the smorgasbord was restored

And all I could taste was food the way we ate it

When the Yom Kippur fast ends, the eating resumes, but by then the holiday technically is over. Thus, breaking the fast arguably is less about the holiday and more about survival. In this connection, consider that there are certain things in life that all humans must do to survive: eat, breathe and sleep. On Yom Kippur, we are allowed to breathe, which is a good thing because, for example, how else would we be able to blow the shofar at the end of the fast? On Yom Kippur, we also are allowed to sleep, which is another good thing because sleep makes fasting easier just like distractions make stress easier. So, on Yom Kippur we can breathe and sleep but not eat. If the epic performer Meatloaf were to convert his 1977 “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” into a power ballad about fasting, the chorus likely would be:

And all I can do, is keep on telling you

I’m breathing, I’m sleeping

But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna be eating

Now don’t be sad (don’t be sad)

‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad

One of the most challenging decisions a Jew must make while breaking the fast is determining when to stop eating. During the break-fast, most Jews enter into a semi-conscious, zombie-like trance and wind up eating far more than imaginable. In fact, most Jews have no idea how much they actually eat during a break-fast. (It is like when drivers mentally “space out” while driving, especially on long stretches of highway, and then cannot clearly remember how they got to their destination.) At some point, however, a person’s belly fills up and they reach a state of satiety. At that juncture, some Jews wisely lay down their forks while others foolishly forge ahead toward overeating oblivion. Returning to Billy Joel, if he were to turn his 1989 hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire” into a song about the Yom Kippur break-fast, it likely would go like this:

Belly Lox, Cream Cheese

Bialys, String Cheese

White Fish

Pickled herring, Ice Cream Cookie Dough

Smoked Trout, Grava Lox

Sable, Nova Lox

Lox Spread, Tuna Salad

Babka Oreo

Sesame, Poppy-seed

Cinnamon, Whole Wheat

Garlic, Pumpernickel

And the Bagel that is Rye

Egg Salad, Ovaltine

My herring needs sour cream

Sliced Onions, English Muffin

Toaster Oven goodbye

We didn’t start the break-fast

It was always eaten

Since the bagels were heatin’

We didn’t start the break-fast

No, we didn’t fight it

But we tried to diet

Final thought: It is more enjoyable to break a fast than to break a sweat, habit or heart.

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