challa bread

Jewish is...

Jewish is buying challa bread every Friday morning.  Jewish is seeing a shaved head and leather jacket. You cross the street, then forget about it.  Jewish is wondering what happened to your great-grandfather.  Nobody knows.  You think you know.

Jewish is the sad, ancient words of the Mourner’s Kaddish, and small stones on graves.  Flowers belong to the world of the living; they are not to be brought to the world of death, but stones recognize our lasting memory.  It’s an expression of defiance against American norms.  The cemetery smells of earth rather than cloying perfume. 

Jewish is your curly hair and your big nose.  Jewish is your best friend’s brown skin and green eyes; you are not the same kind of Jew, but he is still your “brother.”  Jewish is watching the same Dreamworks movies every year before Passover.  Jewish is “Hey, I have a Jewish friend!  Maybe you’re related!”  They might be right.

Jewish is straddling a space of ethnic, religious and cultural identity.

Jewish is confusion.  It is so many questions… “Am I white? Does it matter?”  People say you have to be one or the other; it is their fascination that fascinates you.  This is a microagression.  You don’t play along.

Jewish is being a “greedy Jewish American Princess.”  Jewish is a conspiracy to take over the world.  You feel like you missed the memo.  Jewish is weird questions about Hanukah and Israel and bar mitzvahs and bacon.  You pretend to laugh.

Jewish is an expression of historical memory and cultural connection, resisting centuries of diaspora and assimilation.

Jewish is wondering why your last name is a slur.

Jewish is a quilt of different experiences of persecution and conditional privilege.

Jewish is all this and more… To me, anyway.

Ten Tips for an Easy Yom Kippur Fast

Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean suffering. There’s quite a bit we can do to alleviate the bodily and mental stress that normally accompanies a fast. The day before the fast, follow the following guidelines:

1. Cut down your caffeine intake to minimize headaches. That means stop drinking coffee, tea, and cola at least eight hours before the fast, and preferably twenty-four hours before the fast.

2. Avoid salty, spicey, and fried foods on the day before the fast.

3. Avoid white sugar, white flour, and white rice. Eat whole-grained foods such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread or challa.

4. Drink a lot of water all day long.

5. Eat a good breakfast that includes fruits, veggies, eggs or sardines, and whole grains.

6. The pre-Yom Kippur meal (se’uda mafseket) should include baked or broiled fish, a veggy salad, consomme, a small portion of chicken or turkey, and a side dish of complex carbohydrates. Substitute sweet deserts with watermelon or other water-retaining fresh fruit, and a cup of herb tea with a whole-grain cookie.

On Yom Kippur:

7. The more you immerse yourself in prayer, the less you’ll think about food.

8. Rest between prayers. Don’t run around outside, especially in the hot sun. Save your voice for prayers. Idle talking will make you thirstier, and will detract from the holiness of the day.

After the fast:

9. Drink two glasses of water, and then eat solids gradually, so as not to shock the digestive system. Begin with fruit, like plums or grapes. The worst thing people do is to consume pastries and soft drinks, or “lekach un bronfan” (cake and liquor) right after the fast (these are unhealthy anytime, all the more so right after the fast when they give your body a shock of glucose).

10. Forty-five minutes to an hour afterwards, one can eat a balanced meal with protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. After eating, relax for an hour with your favorite book (preferably Gemara of the laws of Succoth from Shulchan Oruch) and your favorite beverage, then begin constructing your Succa.

Attention diabetics, heart patients, folks with high blood pressure, and people whose health depends on regular medication - you must be especially careful to ask your doctor if you are capable of fasting, and then consult with your local rabbi, giving him the doctor’s exact opinion. For many such people, it is a mitzva not to fast on Yom Kippur.