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    Fasting in a lighter vein

    fastIn English, Yom Kippur is called a fast. Imagine what we as English-speaking children thought when we first heard the word “fast”.

    The Cheder teacher told us that Yom Kippur was coming up and it was a fast and we didn’t eat or drink that day. We were quite confused. In our minds, “fast” had to do with excessive speed.

    What a let-down it was to find when we spent Yom Kippur in shule that the day was long and nothing went fast, least of all the sermon.

    The story of is told of a child who whispered to his father during the sermon, “Isn’t he finished yet?”… and the father replied, “He finished a long time ago but he doesn’t know it yet!”

    We took a long time to discover that “fast” had something to do with holding fast to one’s stomach and not allowing hunger pangs to develop.

    In those days a wedding reception was called a breakfast; it took us years to find that at least in Judaism, in order to come to the ceremony in serious mood the bride and groom did not eat until after the chuppah – and what they ate thereafter broke their fast.

    Unkind minds would say that the guests also didn’t eat until the wedding, not because they were too busy or trying to be spiritual, but because at the wedding the food and drink were free and they wanted to come with a healthy appetite.

    When I was a congregational rabbi, certain members of the congregation booked an after-Yom Kippur dinner at a local non-kosher hostelry… presumably never realising that going straight to a treifah dinner was incongruous after a day in Synagogue.

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