“But if you’re also half Italian, why do you choose to fast for Yom Kippur?” It’s a question almost as old as the Old Testament itself, and one I’ve been asked every year since I was a child.
I was raised both Jewish and Catholic, with neither parent adhering to traditions of the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Yet once I was old enough to understand that the 25-hour fasting period was about introspection, appreciation, and atonement, I began to observe it on my own in my own way.
To me, Yom Kippur is less about God and more about elevating my own awareness — a spiritual cleansing of sorts. I stay home, focus on reading or writing, and contemplate the ways my life has bettered or hindered those around me during the past year. Many people do this more often than once a year. But there’s a certain power that comes from the understanding millions of others around the world are joining in the same cognition, even if I am physically alone, on a single, particular day. It’s a sensation greater than myself, even while I practice solely for myself.
Most of my days consist of waiting or planning for my next meal, so rather than fill up my stomach, I feed my soul. I think back to all the moments I could have listened more and spoken less, done more or taken a step back, cut off situations or reached out, my wrongdoings. I take time to appreciate all of those who helped me through moments I needed it most, and I let go of any grudge or guilt I’ve harnessed.
Then, as the retrospection of days past concludes I envision my future — those I want in it, the life I aim to achieve, the kind of person I hope to be. The craving for food is replaced by hunger for betterment, for myself and all the people around me.
Even those who may not believe in a higher power or life after death can agree on one thing: We each exist right now and we all live in this world together. As I fast, year after year, I strengthen my soul, clear my conscience, and gain a deeper appreciation for what I’ve learned and all the new adventures to come.