N turned to Baroy during N's golf lesson on Wednesday and suddenly asked, "Is God dead?"
Baroy, thrown, hesitated, then replied, "You know, N, that's a question that gets asked more often than you'd think on a golf course."
Em, who is 11, decided she wanted to try to fast on Yom Kippur this year; she isn't actually 'commanded' to fast until after her Bat Mitzvah (and wouldn't have been 'permitted' to fast until the age of 9), but I wasn't going to stand in her way. I set a few ground rules: She wouldn't start until morning (since her soccer practice Wednesday night meant eating dinner after the fast officially started), no pushing it if she felt sick (rather than just hungry), and no fasting from liquids (i.e., she was to take sips of water if and when she felt particularly thirsty).
After the family service ended at around noon, Baroy got ready to take N home for the afternoon; I like to stay for some of the other services, and I also find it much easier to fast (or, rather, not to cheat) if I'm around a bunch of other people who are doing the same. Since Em's friend Sass was sticking around as well (her mom--one of my good friends--feels the same way I do), Em decided she too would avoid the temptations of home and stay with me. She went with Sass to the park while I went to the Yizkor and Musaf services, then came back to find me and a tiny handful of people hanging out in the office and chatting. She joined us for a little bit, then went with me to the unique service our synagogue has before we do the Mincha service. (Just for the record, we do an alternate Torah reading from the one mentioned in that article.) They call it a "healing" service, but what it is is a guided meditation--led by J, one of our congregants--built around some Judaic concept. (This time it was the word neshamah, which can mean both 'soul' and 'breath.')
And so, Em not only did her first fast, but she did her first guided meditation...and she loved every minute of it, falling so under the spell of J's voice (not hard to do; he has the absolute perfect voice and delivery for that sort of thing) that she actually drifted off a few times.
After that, it was easy for her; she walked in and out of the sanctuary during Mincha, then joined me again when Baroy and Noah arrived for the final service, the Neilah service, at the conclusion of which our rabbi always does a really lovely blessing over all the congregation's children, who gather up on the bima and who then join in on the concluding blowing of the shofar. Always gives me chills.
And then it was time to break the fast with orange juice (when WILL I learn to just SIP the juice and not gulp it down, sending my body into near shock with the sudden onrush of sugar after 25 hours of nothingness?) and challah. Em drank a bit, ate a piece of challah, and then proceeded to brag to every adult she could buttonhole for thirty seconds about how she'd done her first fast. And they all ooohed and aaahed over her until you practically could have READ by her, she was glowing so brightly.
I stood by, watched, and smiled, so very proud of my girl. Every year, at the Kol Nidre service that sort of 'kicks off' Yom Kippur, our rabbi talks about how many Jews will wish each other an "easy" fast, but that what he wishes us all is a meaningful fast...because, otherwise, why do it at all? Em had a meaningful fast, something I never had--or, frankly, really attempted--until I was in my 40s.
Then we went home and stuffed ourselves with carry-out fried chicken and potato chips. After all, we'd earned it. Especially Em.