MARTHA THOMASES: Hungry Heart
Before he started to host The Daily Show, I saw Jon Stewart do his monologue on one of those charity benefits organized by Denis Leary. Comparing Yom Kippur to Lent and, therefore, Jews to Catholics, Stewart said, “You give up something for 40 days. We go one day without eating. Even in sin, you pay retail.”
When this is posted, I’ll be fasting. It’s true that, as a Jew, a woman and a New Yorker, I appreciate a bargain. However, that’s not why I don’t eat. It’s also true that going without a few meals is nothing new to me, being the compulsive bad dieter that I am. Most Saturdays, I eat a piece of fruit for breakfast and then, because I have a zillion chores, nothing else until dinner. So, this Saturday, I won’t have my morning apple. It’s not a big sacrifice.
The sacrifice is forgoing the errands. On Saturdays, I go to the Union Square Green Market. In the fall, it’s a riot of color and smells, with fresh herbs, heirloom tomatoes, summer and winter squash, and dozens of different apples, pears, peaches and pumpkins. For this city girl, it’s a reminder of the natural world, with its cycles of life and death, fertility and harvest. Going to the Green Market is a way for me to forgo the usual cerebral products with which I clutter my day, and to be a mom and a wife, caring for my family and being a part of my community. Plus, I get to talk to farmers, which is a rare and glamorous thing to do in Manhattan.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the culmination of the Days of Awe. I should have spent this time examining my behavior, accepting responsibility for my mistakes, and doing my best to fix them. Instead, I’m thinking about what I’ll be missing for one day. This is something I should fix. Ah, the circle of life.
There are many Jews who are fine people who don’t, for one reason or another, fast on Yom Kippur. There have been years when I haven’t fasted, when I went to work and ignored the holiday. I was in my twenties, determined to recreate myself as an individual separate from my family. For the last two decades, however, I’ve gone to services and enjoyed them. I enjoy them. It feels good to say the prayers on the same cycle every year, as my ancestors did. It’s funny to listen to the stomach grumblings of the people around me, the contrast between our spiritual and biological impulses.
Fasting is supposed to give your body a chance to detoxify, to eliminate the crud we accumulate in our regular lives. Fasting for one day probably doesn’t get rid of many toxins, but it allows me to clear my head, to consider how lucky I am to be able to go without food by choice, instead of being forced to starve by circumstances. Saying ritual prayers and fasting separates me from the mundane, and lets me see life as a glorious blessing.
When I walk out the synagogue doors, the air is usually clean and clear, and Central Park is bathed in sunlight. When the sun sets, and I dip my apple slice into honey, it can sometimes be so unbearably sweet that it makes my cheeks hurt. I’m so grateful to be alive that I know this year will be worthwhile.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess of all things ComicMix, promises to write about comics next week.