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Yom Kippur reflections: No mirrors necessary

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10/03/2012

Adam Daniel Miller photo

The dumbest thing I do every year is to complain about hunger in the immediate hours after the sun goes down on the night of Kol Nidre. For whatever reason, those first hours always seem much tougher than the final ones. I have previously talked about how Yom Kippur is one of the most important Jewish holidays to me. For what are now a multitude of reasons, this holiday in particular has become a very significant day for me. Yes, I’m well aware that it happens to be a fairly important day for most other Jews as well, but for me, it is a day I hold up on a pedestal. Hence why I believe it’s called a High Holiday. I find my focus on the hunger to be displaced and this year, while the hunger can’t help but be persistent, I took it upon myself to truly focus my Yom Kippur on just that, myself.

This Yom Kippur was significant because it was the first one I’ve had since my Shorashim Birthright trip to Israel. It would take me quite a while to explain exactly the full impact of what that means but a large portion of it stems from my experience at the Western Wall. What I did there is very similar to the way I wanted to handle Yom Kippur this year. I talked to myself. Honestly and openly. I do this so rarely and yet, it provides a lot of clarity in times of confusion to truly speak to myself and discover my own thoughts. The experience I had at the Western Wall was truly unforgettable. Funny enough, I don’t remember everything that I said, but I will never forget how I felt. (I sure wish I could have a transcript of my thoughts) Those feelings I had there are still with me today. It’s mostly because the strength of those feelings keeps it prevalent in my mind. It also helps that I have a souvenir refrigerator magnet and snow globe.

So starting this year, and hopefully every year that follows, I plan on treating what I do during Yom Kippur a little differently. This year I treated it as a time to have some much needed self reflection. The moment the sun went down I stared at myself in the mirror for over two hours.

That’s a little joke. I sure hope that doesn’t count as a sin. I just started over.

But I bring up that idea of sins because my fasting has a deeper meaning to me than simply getting rid of them. I use my fasting as a way to draw focus to all that I wanted to cleanse myself or get rid of outside of traditional sins. I use this day as a time to look at how I can improve myself in the coming year. I reflect on what I did that may have not been so great and what I can learn from that. To get this all in motion, I took a very lengthy walk down Lake Shore Drive at one of the most asinine times to do so. Roughly two hours before sundown, I began a walk from Lakeview to River North. By landmarks, roughly Wrigley Field to the John Hancock building. All on 22 hours of an empty stomach. It was the dumbest and best decision I made that day. During this walk I did exactly what I hoped. I spoke to myself. Mostly in my own head but occasionally out loud when no one was around or when I didn’t notice that lady right behind me. It’s astounding the thoughts that come to fruition when given the chance.

As a part of my walk, I took a little break, sat on a bench, whipped out my journal, and wrote a little. Yes I have a journal. Not a diary. A journal. Like the one Doug Funnie had, for those of you who understand that. I’ve titled my journal “My Thoughts Exactly,” because they are just that. Talking to myself is one thing, but writing to myself can be incredibly cathartic. Especially on Yom Kippur. I really can’t tell you anything about what I wrote in there but know it’s the best stuff that’s ever been written by any person in the history of time.

What writing and talking to myself did for me is give me the initial understanding of what goals I have for the year to come. Some are bigger, some are smaller and some are simply practical. Like that I want to make sure I brush my teeth every night before I go to bed. It’s something small yet important that I have neglected for years that I should always be doing. It’s a realistic goal and starting with that should, among other things, give me the momentum needed to accomplish the bigger goals. And this goal is part of the overarching goal I have for myself which is to not be so lazy. In fact my current motto to myself is “No lazy.” I mean for this to be in every aspect of my life, whether it’s walking a little more or getting a few more things accomplished each day. It’s amazing how difficult it is for me to not be lazy sometimes, but pushing myself makes me, sheepishly, a little proud of myself.

My Zadie has always told me that it’s very important to never lose focus of your own picture. Talking and writing to myself on Yom Kippur helps me finish those edges, add those shadows and darken those lines to make the picture complete and clear. At least clearer. If only my picture was as easy as a paint by numbers. That’d be quite nice. Yom Kippur is one of the most special days of the year to me. I don’t look at it so much as a Day of Atonement but more as a day of clarity and understanding. Sure I’m not a fan of fasting but this is one powerful day. A day I hold in the highest regard. I don’t even care this much about my birthday. Other than the fact I get cake. I love cake. Please excuse me while I got get some cake.

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