To keep my name from being sealed, I will eat: A Poetic D’var for Yom Kippur

a yellow butterfly
Today is a day of reflection and repentance.
It is a day in which we imitate the finality of death,
in which we suffer, even for a short while,
and remember those whom we have made suffer,
this year, and in years past, with our misdeeds.
 
It is a day in which we, collectively and individually,
must wrestle and reckon with what we have done.
We do this by fasting, by praying, and by mimicking
the cold conclusion which one day calls us all.
 
But for some of us, this day comes with further requirements.
Today entails not mimicking the finality of our death,
but rather by acknowledging our commandment to stay alive.
The commandment, sustaining a Life, supersedes
nearly all of the 613 mitzvot that we were commanded.
 
For some of us, some like me, we must eat.
We eat because we must grow or feed a child,
or because we must sustain for medication,
for some others it is a matter of health,
with health complications making sustenance a constant necessity,
a necessity which we cannot shirk or ignore.
 
For some it is simple and easy to explain,
for some it is a source of shame or embarrassment,
but whatever our situation, whatever we need,
we must eat to stay alive, because mimicking death
is less important to our creator than us continuing to live.
 
So, we eat, and we live; and yet, in doing so,
we stand out in a crowd of those who fast, and imitate.
We stick out among those who are praying in silence,
those whose stomachs rumble, and churn from hunger,
those who don’t seem to notice that they are hungry.
 
Because if I were to fast, it would not end at sunset.
if I were to fast, even for just one day, it would continue
until I was no longer imitating, and the suffering would be real.
We are commanded with Pikuach Nefesh for a reason,
and even if sometimes it is hard to see and understand,
even if sometimes, sticking out in the crowd is uncomfortable,
staying alive is ultimately the end goal of a pursuit of love.
 
Life, as it stands, is a messy journey, of pain, and joy,
suffering and anguish, monotony, and blandness,
but that journey is a wonderful journey,
a journey that should not be cut short because
I decided that fasting on Yom Kippur was more important.
 
And so, today, I will eat. And my eating will not be easy.
I will struggle with the plate, just as your struggle with hunger.
I will look at my plate with distain, as you with your stomach.
My anguish will be my bagel for breakfast, my falafel for lunch
and when we join together at sunset, for a joy-filled meal,
my anguish with eating will continue, while you go back to normal.
 
Today, do not take your hunger for granted, and likewise,
do not take your food tomorrow as a given.
Some of us will struggle with food every day, and sometimes,
those of us who struggle, will not win the battle.
On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
Today, to keep my name from being sealed, I will eat.
And it will be a joyful suffering, because it means I will live.
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