So why fast if one does not attach deep religious meaning to the act, if one does not ‘do it properly’?
I once heard a Jewish woman say that when she lit the Shabbat candles every Friday night she felt a connection to all Jewish women everywhere who were also lighting Shabbat candles, ushering in the Shabbat. And she also felt a connection to all Jewish women down the generations before her who had lit the Shabbat candles, and the yet unborn baby girls who would be lighting them in the future.
Fasting on Yom Kippur is also something we do and have been doing for many generations. This is a humbling thought. The essence of this fast, of this day, is also humbling. We beat our breasts as we collectively speak our transgressions, and together ask for forgiveness.
I haven’t been to shul on Yom Kippur for many years, so I haven’t actually done this for a while, but I can still hear the tune “And for all these oh Lord of forgiveness: Forgive us, pardon us, grant us remission.” Nostalgia has made the memory far sweeter than reality ever was. I used to be bored out of my mind.
You sometimes hear people saying defensively, ‘I haven’t done anything wrong, so I don’t have to fast’. You smile to yourself, because you happen to know one ore two things about those particular people.
Others aren’t taking any chances. You can probably leave your door wide open in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur. The thieves are all praying and beating their breasts. They know that what they do for a living is wrong. They also know that tomorrow they will continue were they left off. Today they pray desperately.
Yesterday, Yom Kippur, I rode my bike through the wonderfully empty streets of industrial South Tel Aviv, through the deserted alleyways of the flea market in Yaffo, touching something that isn’t there on the other days of the year, not even on Shabbat.
When I came home I drank, two cups after the first trip, three after the second, so as not to dehydrate. Mine wasn’t a very ‘kosher’ fast.
But today I feel cleansed, and not just physically. There is a strength to Yom Kippur, however you choose to spend it.
Bottom line: Why fast? I’m not sure, but it feels good.