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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fasting and Awe, Flakiness and Gratitude

I’m hungry and want to cram food in my mouth. But it’s Yom Kippur and the 9th grader decided she wanted to “be Jewish” this year. Far be it from me to dissuade her from exploring her religion, so I took her to temple today. And since she wanted to fast, I am fasting, too. I’m drinking tea. I haven’t eaten a thing yet and it’s mid afternoon. Honestly, I don’t know how long I’m going to last. 

But I’ve had a sad realization about myself that I wish to disprove. I am kind of a flake. Yes, I have had to admit that. Last weekend, in fact, the sad truth obtruded into my life. I forgot that I was supposed to help someone at a table at the farmer’s market. First, I said I would - my first mistake, since I am a flake. I signed up on a sheet saying I would appear at 8:45 am. Then I put the information in my calendar. Then I forgot about it. Meanwhile, the husband had to go in to work, which left me to drive the 9th grader to her morning activity. This had to happen during the time I was to sit at the farmer’s market. However, since I am a flake, I had forgotten all about it. Not until my phone reminder popped up at 10 minutes 'til tee-off did I give it another thought. 

My table mate was a good sport about it, but I had to admit, at my ripe age, that I am a flake. And I should have known better than to sign up in the first place. Because - flake. 

Which is why I am trying this Yom Kippur to be as non-flakey as the daughter, who is fasting, in order to prove to her, and to my table mate, that I can follow-through. And also to myself. To prove that, yes, I may be kind of a flake, when it comes to things that aren’t that fun to do, like sit at the farmer’s market at a table handing out flyers for a good cause, but that I can overcome my flakiness. It’s good to know. 

Is it cheating to drink tea? Is it cheating to drink tea with cinnamon when you know that cinammon is supposed to suppress appetite? 

Let’s assume lapsed Reform Judaism isn’t too particular. Let's not delve into it, in case cinnamon tea is not, as they say, kosher. 

Anyhow. The service today was interesting. Or rather, the first two-and-a-half hours of it. Or rather, the first hour of it. Somehow, today, I learned something meaningful about my religion from the rabbi. This hasn’t always happened, although I like this rabbi. Today, though, I felt like she provided context to the prayers. And the context was kind of fascinating. There is a new prayer book in the Reform synagogue. Perhaps it was because of this new prayer book. And yet, I think perhaps it was just the rabbi being interesting. Or perhaps it was me being interested at this ripe age. 

When I gather strength in my famished body, I will ask the 9th grader if she noticed. Although she hasn’t had any interest in services for several years, so she’s not going to have a basis for comparison.

Anyway. I definitely learned this from the prayer book in a footnote to the opening prayer: That the Hebrew term chesed, which is "God’s abounding love" or something, stands for 
  • steadfast love
  • kindness
  • loyalty
  • responsibility
  • and care

I thought that was a nice definition of love - as I always do when reminded that the Jewish view of godliness is not all justice and revenge, although it’s often construed that way. An eye for an eye and all that. No, it’s about kindness and stuff that usually only Christianity gets credited for. 

So that was in the new prayer book.

But the context thing was this. The service starts with prayers of thanks for the body, mind, and soul. Apparently, this is meant to be a daily ritual, for people who observe daily, as opposed to twice a year Jews like me. The rabbi said that this sequence of prayers is to do first thing every day. Upon awaking, give thanks for the body, for being able to rise, for the mind, for being able to comprehend, and for the soul, for obvious reasons. Which is a facile way of glossing that I’ve forgotten that third prayer exactly. 

Fun fact, per the rabbi. The body blessing is meant to be said after going to the bathroom! 

The rabbi also said that as long we stood up at the appropriate times during the service, we should feel free to be "people of the book," and to flip through the book and read the commentary and footnotes (already done - check) and just think about whatever we want. Immediately, my mind began to wander. I remembered a memoir I once read about a woman who learned about being Jewish through cooking and how she realized that Judaism is all about about blessings and celebrations. 

Gratitude, in other words. Gratitude. Expressing it. But also cultivating it. This is something I’ve come across in so many books and articles about success and happiness. It's about developing a good attitude - right thinking in Buddhism - a success mindset. We are to cultivate gratitude to develop our potential. And there it is, right in the liturgy of my own religion, too. Thanks for waking up (again), soul intact. Thanks for having a body. Thanks for being able to read and study. Thanks for being able to enrich mind and (if you believe it) spirit. 

It’s kind of nice. Many paths, one mountain. (Buddha) Happiness is wanting what you have. (Inspirational meme). 

It’s five pm and I’m hungry! But I am not a flake!

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