Tomorrow is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Before I look it up on google, let me tell you what I know about it:
It's a really big deal Jewish holiday. The most important one I think. No gifts are involved. Instead, you are supposed to go to temple tonight. And then again tomorrow. You are supposed to fast for 24 hours (starting tonight). You are supposed to think about all the crappy things you did this year, and feel really, really bad about yourself. And then you are supposed to do better next year.
And now the official description from Wikipedia:
"Also known as Day of Atonement, [Yom Kippur] is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services."
Well, hell hath no fury like a Jew stuffing their face, and Lord strike me down for my synagogue non-attendance. But, much to my in-laws horror, we won't be going to services, and I certainly am not going without food. (I'm pulling for Olive Garden for dinner this evening).
I truly mean no disrespect to people that do observe these traditions. In fact, I admire those people. I wish I had some kind of sincere religious convictions that meant something to me. But to me, if you tell me I have to listen to a three hour long service in a language I don't understand, and to boot, I have to starve myself, my question is: Why?
The answer always seems to be just because.
I blame my religious indifference on my parents. Growing up, we celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah (Christian mom, Jewish dad). That was fun. We never went to church or temple. Holidays just didn't have a religious meaning to me. They meant presents - lots of presents. And I have lots of joyful memories of those holidays.
As I got older, and saw friends going through religious rituals, I started to yearn for something for myself. At the age of 15, I had a bat mitzvah (a Jewish right of passage where you learn to read hebrew, but don't really understand what you are reading, and you have a big party). In all seriousness, my bat mitzvah was an amazing experience, and gave me a real sense of a religious community. It was an excuse for all of my extended, blended family to get together. It also paid for my first car.
From that point on, religion in my life fell to the wayside, apart from those aforementioned present-centric holidays, which are still fun for adults. And it probably would have become even more absent from my life, had I not met my husband. My husband comes from a very Jewish family. As in, if I hadn't had a bit of Jewish blood in me, his parents probably would have strongly disapproved of our union. So, our wedding was officiated by a rabbi. We did a bris for both of our sons. We travel up to New York every year for Passover. And our kids will probably have bar mitzvahs themselves.
But for me? Organized religion is something that I'm still not quite comfortable with. I'll go along with it when I need to, but it is not something that means something to me. There just seem to be so many arbitrary rules. Fast on these days. Go to temple/church on these days. Pray at this time. Don't wear certain things. Be sure to wear certain things. Snip your infant son's penis. Don't marry this person. Don't marry any person. Be sure to give us money. Women over here. Men over there.
I'm not going to go into details on my personal beliefs, but suffice it to say that they don't involve very many rules. And maybe that's a gift that my parents did give me - unconstrained by a strict religious dogma, I have been able to come to my own conclusions about religion and God and all those existential things. I have come to believe that you don't need to be part of an organized religion to be spiritual yourself.
So we'll do all those Jewish traditions. Which aren't all bad, because they involve family and good food and memories. But we'll also have a Christmas tree every year. Because it's fun and there are presents and kids love it. Because we can.
And who knows how things will change over the years? Maybe I'll see the light or become a Buddhist.
But I can tell you what's not happening. I'm NOT fasting. Ain't gonna happen.