Why Do I Fast on Yom Kippur? (Not Really Religious.)

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e-Card from Yahoo Image Search

I’ll start this off by saying that I’m a terrible Jew.  I have no grasp of the Hebrew language and only know the basics of most things Jewish.  I follow the big holidays and Chanukah, but I tend to forget Purim and the other ones that require extra phlegm.  I continually screw up the Passover dietary restrictions because my birthday tends to fall into the holiday and I demand cake.  Also, I went to college where the Passover meal was a plate of pasta.  For those unsure, you don’t eat breads and pastas on Passover.  We don’t count the giant seasonal crackers in those categories.  Last time I stepped into a Synagogue was because a cousin was getting his Bar Mitzvah.  Before that might have been a wedding, but I have no idea.  So, why do I spend a day not eating when I’m such a terrible Jew?

Simple answer:  My grandfather.

He wanted me to be a good Jew and I continually let him down to the point where he talked to me about Judaism like I was the family dog.  It was simply that he didn’t know what I understood, so he went into full explanations and tried to goad a debate out of me.  Tended to work and he enjoyed the philosophical discussion that came with it.  Still, out of my entire generation of the family, I’m the worst Jew.  Everyone else is into it and can read Hebrew while I mumble about there being too many squiggles and apostrophes.  My grandfather tried his best with me and the result was I didn’t want to go beyond the basics.  I truly had nothing that I could do right beyond remembering to light candles on a Menorah and fasting for Yom Kippur.

My grandfather passed away in November of 2008, which is a story for another holiday.  I am the only one in the household who fasts during Yom Kippur.  My son is too young, my wife isn’t Jewish, and my parents have medications that require food.  So, I stop eating at sundown, sleep in, and battle through a video game (this year is original Legend of Zelda) until I can eat again.  No writing and minimal blogging because I won’t be very coherent.  I also get irritable, which a few college friends tried to use to eliminate some enemies back in the day.  It involved a guy with pizza and them throwing him in the room I was resting in, locking the door behind him.  I don’t remember what happened there, but I was still hungry and the guy had all his fingers, so I didn’t eat anything.

Anyway, I do this for my grandfather and I’ll always try to do this for him.  I know I’ve let him down so many times in terms of Judaism, so I do this for him.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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29 Responses to Why Do I Fast on Yom Kippur? (Not Really Religious.)

  1. Karen says:

    I’m a terrible Catholic (and by “terrible Catholic” I mean “I’m an atheist”), and I still don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. I think I feel like it’s connecting to a shared cultural history rather than observing a religious ritual. It kind of confounds people, though, because every year at least one person gives me a WTF look of incredulity and asks, “You’re religious?????” as though I’m so obviously the spawn of Satan I couldn’t possibly be devout. Which is pretty accurate, for the most part.;)


    • Judaism has that funny thing where it has aspects of religion and culture. So, those outside of it dub it entirely as a religion and give me lectures about wasting my time on the few attempts I make. I’ve even been told by an old Catholic ‘friend’ that I can’t call myself Jewish because I don’t keep kosher. Yet, there is a ‘culturally’ Jewish path that people take in this country. I’d probably be able to explain this better if I hadn’t just woken up and somebody in the house didn’t decide to make a breakfast that one can smell from across the house.


  2. Good for you. I can’t think of a better reason to fast.


  3. Its a wonderful thing that you do this for your grandfather, a great sign of respect for a many you seem to love dearly or you wouldn’t be doing this.


  4. Squirt says:

    I’m fasting with you, just not at the parents house. I do miss the arguments with Grandpa. I think I used hebrew school for more of a social thing than learning.

    This year your Legends of Windemere books are keeping me occupied. Needless to say I didn’t get to sleep until 1am because of them. See you later!


  5. kingmidget says:

    Why can’t you have pasta at Passover? I’ve always understood the issue with Passover as you can’t have unleavened bread, which means nothing with yeast in it. Pasta doesn’t have yeast. Have I missed out on something from my Jewish in-laws?
    And, yes, this is a very cool way to keep your Grandfather’s spirit alive.


  6. MishaBurnett says:

    I was raised to be an Atheist, and became a Theist for intellectual reasons late in life. So while I believe very strongly in God, we have a particularly dispassionate relationship. I don’t really keep any traditions at all. Consequently, people tend to be very surprised when they find out that I am religious.


  7. Papi Z says:

    Ah, I understand now. Try not to gnaw anyone’s leg off today.


  8. sknicholls says:

    I respect that you honor your grandfather. I am not religious anymore, but I once was (Lutheran, but raised Methodist/Baptist). I am still very spiritual and have an immovable faith in God. I have studied so very many different religions, but haven’t found one I could say encompasses my belief system… or practices…so I guess I am really just a Pagan with a Higher Power. Your son will respect that you kept tradition alive for him some day most likely. My children do.


  9. cnmill says:

    I loved reading this.
    It brought a lot of insight towards you, which I enjoyed. And as I saw in the comments above. I can’t think of a better reason to fast.


  10. melissajanda says:

    I love that you chose to do this in honor of your grandfather. It’s a lovely tribute to him and what he meant to you. I was raised Catholic, and although I no longer attend the Catholic Church, I did give up several things for lent in honor of that tradition: soda, refined sugar, and alcohol. Soda was easy because I rarely drink it anyway. Sugar was a little more difficult. Many things contain sugar, but I already avoid most of them so I didn’t think it would be too difficult, so I included alcohol and THAT was the kicker. I wanted to be challenged, tempted. I wanted to test my willpower and I guess I asked for it because everywhere I looked, people were drinking or talking about drinking. And to top it off, I read The Sun Also Rises at the end of lent and that book is all about drinking! Maybe that’s why I didn’t care for the book too much, lol.


    • I trying to figure out the sugar thing. I was doing good with soda and only drinking seltzer until today. I put it on the shopping list since my dad offered. Unfortunately, he doesn’t drink soda, so he went by the brand and brought back a bunch of diet sodas like cherry, grape, and chocolate. Oops. I have to remember to be more specific.

      My drinking is not as bad as I make it sound. I used to drink more often. Now it’s a beer here and there.


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