How I Observed Yom Kippur (and lived!)

Hello, boys and girls, geeks and nerdlings…

I am back for a few days after spending Yom Kippur in Toronto.

It could have been worse.

I developed a case of the sniffles last Wednesday night which continued through the weekend. Standing and starving for 25 hours with no water is not exactly a walk in the park at the best of times. Throw in having to blow your nose every ten minutes and you have the ingredients for a truly unpleasant experience.

It wasn’t as bad as I am making it out to be. No sneezing, no coughing (except to clear my throat as a result of the sniffles), no itchy watery eyes, no aches and pains, no headaches. Just this damn runny nose. Yeuch. I HATE that symptom.

(My Artscroll Yom Kippur machzor [prayer book])

Back to Yom Kippur.

I daven (pray) at a tiny little shtiebl on Bathurst Street. A shtiebl is a small informal Orthodox synagogue… mine being located in what I believe was a former shoe store. It’s great. Small. Intense. Fervent… yet casual. Great mix of sacred and comfy. I love it.

I don’t mind the fasting as far as the lack of food is concerned. Many times, and way more often than is good for me, I do without breakfast or lunch, so it’s not unusual for me to go from supper one day to supper the next day. What really gets to me is not being able to drink. Full disclosure: I did have a little bit of water in order to take my Tylenol cold pills. I really don’t think I could have lasted the whole 25 hours without something to alleviate the runny nose.

(Houston… we have a problem)

Looking back, I think my real problem was to a large extent pharmacological.

Not wanting to take pills every few hours throughout the day and thereby having to drink even small amounts of water (the mere thought of trying to swallow even gel caps without water is enough to give me the dry heaves), I foolishly took a whole bunch in one mouthful thinking that my system would work things out during the course of the afternoon.

Things were OK at first. Really. The symptoms completely disappeared within the hour. It was great. Time and chemistry took their toll, however, as the day went on. By the time we got to the Ne’ilah service [1], it became progressively more difficult for me to concentrate. I reached a kind of bizarre zoned-out state where I had movement but no real thought process. Gross motor skills appeared largely unaffected albeit slower. Speech came only with great difficulty. I was reduced mostly to low moans. Mentally, I think all but the basal ganglia portion of my brain had pretty much packed up and gone to the Poconos.

In other words, just before sunset Saturday evening, I achieved Zomb-Kippur… that deep zoned-out ‘living dead’ state that one sometimes experiences as a result of a dangerous combination of food and water deprivation, nasal congestion, an intense prolonged religious atmosphere and an ill-conceived self-medication plan.

Luckily, just after services concluded that night, my shtiebl hosted a small break fast in the basement consisting of cake, coffee, soft drinks and chocolate strudel. At the insistence of a dear Czechoslovakian friend of mine and in my suggestible altered state, I broke my fast with two shots of Royal Crown whiskey. Things were decidedly fuzzy after that point. I do dimly recall giving my friend’s 10-year old daughter my considered and detailed legal opinion (completely unsolicited) on her desire to try some of my whiskey shots and I seem to have this vague image of her putting some cake in my mouth to shut me up. I don’t really remember the cake and coffee, nor do I remember being driven back to where I was staying. I had a great night’s sleep, though!

All in all, I had a great time.

Onward to Sukkot!!


[1] Ne’ila, (lit. locking) the concluding service, is a special prayer service that is held only on Yom Kippur. It is the time when final prayers of repentance are recited at the closing of Yom Kippur.

2 comments on “How I Observed Yom Kippur (and lived!)

  1. flyfisherjo says:

    Tsk, tsk, tsk. There is a reason they put instructions on the box. And there is a reason why medical authorities insist on never mixing medications with alcohol, never mind that alcohol just on its own can make allergy symptoms up to three times worse (you sound like you were having a histamine reaction to something). Next time, try a 24 hour pill, stay away from alcohol and ask the rabbi about water intake when you are sick during fasts.
    There is a lot of pollen in the air right now, my allergies are bothering me alot and they haven’t bothered me in a long time. If your nose is runny, just take an antihistamine ( histamines make your nose run). It comes in 24 hour pills and non-drowsy ones at that. Ask your pharmacist. Now, have a happy Sukkot.

    • vampyrefangs says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful suggestions! I still have the sniffles but hey, like they say… it ain’t cancer, so I shouldn’t complain. I know a lot of people who are getting these early autumn colds. It’ll be fine, I’m sure. I pick up my lulav and esrog tomorrow from the Chabad Rabbi in St Catharines and then head back to Toronto after court Wednesday morning. Looks like it is going to rain all through the first half of Sukkos, though. Now THERE’S a surprise. 😦

      Have a wonderful Sukkos. A good yontiff and a great Shabbes to you!

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