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Fasting In Religion

Yom Kippur

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ROCHESTER, New York- Many religions employ fasting as a spiritual ritual. I’ve engaged in it on multiple occasions in multiple different contexts but I never really got it.When I don’t eat I don’t feel spiritual and close to God. I feel hungry.
I feel hungry and weak and irritable — the polar opposite of what I’m told I’m supposed to feel. I spend times of fasting not suspended in religious fervor but engrossed in anticipation for the day to end, whereupon I can again eat and not be hungry anymore.
I understand that I may not get it.
But the only thing worst than fasting is probably fasting alone, while everyone else around you is eating like normal.
My wife fasts for Yom Kippur. Sometimes I fast with her. Most years, I don’t. While she never demands me to fast or even overtly encourages it, she does appreciate it when I do it with her.This year I was all in. We had our last meal just before sundown and then went to synagogue for the two hour service. We went again the following morning. We took the kids over to Wegmans so they could eat lunch — we watched as they devoured a sub — and then we drove down to Letchworth State Park for a day together as a family.I used to love going to Letchworth with my mother as I was growing up. As a young traveler each time I returned home for a visit we’d be sure to go there. You just drive leisurely next to the gorge, stopping at lookout points and going for short hikes on trails. The place is just … it’s just relaxing.With Hannah and the girls we mostly just played on the playgrounds. My kids are not much for lookout points. Although they did enjoy playing in the mist next to the waterfall.Whenever I got irritated about not eating I though of Hannah at that football game in Baltimore, sitting out in the rain, cold and trembling, all the way to the end when just about every other fan in the stadium had already left. It made me feel better. At least I wasn’t risking hypothermia.
When we could see three stars in the sky — we counted the sun as one — we went to Wegmans, where Hannah and I broke fast with a giant cookie and shared a sub.The following day I thought about what we did. I realized that fasting blocked off the day as being something special, as something that my wife and I did together, as something different from ordinary days where we eat three meals and work, and this, I learned, is ultimately what fasting is all about.


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About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3715 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

2 comments… add one

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  • Rob September 23, 2018, 4:47 am

    I think you’re a lucky guy.

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    • Wade Shepard September 24, 2018, 11:34 pm

      Yes, I got a good wife … somehow.

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