A little while ago, we celebrated the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. This is the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Hebrew calendar.
As you likely know, it involves a sundown-to-sundown fast (the Hebrew calendar is lunar, so night then day is a day, not the other way around). [Bear with me here; this isn't really a post about Yom Kippur; it's just a good jumping point.]
When you're doing this for the first few times – typically around the ages of 12, 13, 14 for most of us (coinciding with bar/bat mitzvah), it's a contest. You complain about hunger, about thirst, about watching fruit roll-up cartoons in between synagogue services, and at the end of the fast, you have a bite of food and you run a victory lap, jumping in the air. You've done it. You've conquered the fast. You are a champion.
But as you grow up, it becomes something else. When you're 15, 16, 17, a weathered veteran in your mind, it's just something you do. You have your family around you as support. And your parents would never let you go to a college without at least some Jewish population – as a Jewish teen, you still need the support around you. So you have other people fasting.
And then you get into your 20s, go off on your own, and suddenly you decide whether you are going to fast. Sometimes you just do it automatically. Sometimes it depends on your relationships, your support system, your community.
What it comes down to is active participation. (See, I told you I'd get somewhere.)
If there's no one to force you into something, or to encourage you, or even to support you, every choice you make is one of active participation, or active exclusion. You decide to fast. You decide to go to
Or you actively decide to not volunteer at the Food Bank, not go to your cousin's wedding, not vote.
Here is my challenge to you this week: notice all of your choices.
You might not perceive of something as a choice, but every decision you make – whether you lock the bathroom door, whether you open the refrigerator with your left or right hand, which parking space you pick and whether your socks match – you have to go through a process to make. Many of these things you do automatically in the normal course of your life, but just for one day, take the time to notice all of the choices you make. Learn how to be more conscious about them. Ask why, even on the seemingly insignificant ones.
You may find something else about yourself that you weren't expecting.