Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Rash

I'm married almost 40 years and I still can't tell you where my wife stands on religion. She just won't talk about it. Maybe because I've been an avowed atheist since I was 14 – call it post Bar Mitzvah trauma. I grew up in a mixed household. My mother was from Eastern Europe and a traditional Jewish family. My dad was born here and is also Jewish but his pop was some kind of Marxist/atheist and my father was never even Bar Mitzvahed. So I had no male role model and jumped off the wagon as soon as I could.

Now my wife is Jewish too, but grew up in a secular household where religion was barely practiced, if at all. So it is not surprising that I never hear one word uttered about Judaism or any other religion.

Except when it comes to Yom Kippur when a whole lot of fasting goes on in this house. Now since she seems to have no connection to religion otherwise, I probe for deeper meaning in this act of denial. Being perfect, she also has no sins to atone for. A shame since we live so close to the water and it would be so easy to stand at the sea wall facing Manhattan and just toss one sin after another into the bay. (I on the other hand, spend half my day there.)

I go along with this fasting business, not for religious reasons but to maybe lose a pound or two for at least one day. But beyond that is the fun of breaking the fast with a bunch of friends - oh that creamed herring with onions. And that giant tub of whitefish salad from Costcos, which has become the mecca of break the fast food - if you can't get into the lower east side to Russ and Daughters, where you can blow a years worth of pension checks on a pound of lox.

Well anyway, the source of this trying to be a Jew for one day a year goes back about 15 years I guess.

We used to go out the opening night of Yom Kippur with a bunch of other Jewish non-believers. Maybe it was an act of defiance. Or just that the restaurants are so empty. This one year we really went whole hog - we went to Tripoli, a Lebanese restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, on Yom Kipper eve. There must have been about 8 or 10 people - mostly all Jews. Just as the first course was being served, my wife broke out in a rash. Not a big deal. She is sensitive to certain foods and sometimes has a hive or two. But this rash really bothered her. Was it was just uncomfortable physically? Or was there a deeper psychological meaning for her discomfort?

Well that was all it took to take the yummy out of Yom Kippur. From that point on she has adhered to the basic Yom Kippur ritual of fasting. Nothing else mind you. No Shul or praying or anything like that. Even a bike ride is not out of the question. Maybe it is fear that if she eats anything on Yom Kippur the rash will return. So far it hasn't.


  1. I enjoyed reading this Norm.


  2. To me, it is important to set Yom Kippur aside as a day to do something special to remind myself I am a Jew. I try to observe the day to the letter, although I am not obsrevant most of the year. I am sure that is the reason your wife fasts too. It is just one act to differentiate her from the non Jewish world and to acclaim her identity. I hope your fast was an esy one and you are not gaining back all the weight you lost as you feast.

  3. We all need God in our lives.
    Hope you willl reconsider and reach out to Him.
    Your life will never be the same.


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