October 20, 2017 | Rome, Italy | °C

Hunger games

On Yom Kippur, it's patience until sunset.
By Eleonora Saravalle
Published: 2017-10-17

hen non-Jews hear about Yom Kippur's strict but simple rules, some are shocked: "Not eat or drink for a day? That's so random." They then move on to the nitty-gritty of fasting: "Oh my, isn't that hard?"

The best way to explain the experience is to take you through a day of non-eating. Now, to be clear, this column focuses only on Yom Kippur's fasting aspect. There's plenty of spiritual stuff going on in tune with the religious meaning of the day, but not eating is usually what people want to know about.

7:18 p.m. Okay, I know. It's been less than an hour and I'm already thirsty. If I'm thirsty now I wonder how I'll make it to sunset. But maybe I just think I'm thirsty. This is the stuff of Greek tragedies: one simple, solvable problem made unsolvable on this one day. Am I usually this parched after dinner? Maybe that quiz was right and I'm dehydrated. Wait, let me take it again….

7:19 p.m. I am dehydrated, but I'm not sure how the quiz can tell since it just asked me what my pizza and dog breed preferences are. But I swear, starting tomorrow I'll drink those eight glasses of water that someone who prefers dachshunds and regular Margherita pizza should drink, at least according to the quiz.

6:45 a.m. I should have tried to sleep in. This feels like a dumb idea.

8:38 a.m. All I usually have for breakfast is tea, so I'm not actually deprived of anything — yet. And it'll all be over in 10 hours. I could fly to Rome in that time, and I do not eat on planes. Just thinking about plane food is makes me less hungry. That's a good strategy.

10:53 a.m. I'm not hungry. I'm not. Except that this is when I usually start thinking about lunch. I don't know what to do with my thoughts. Maybe I'll redirect them to what I'll write my upcoming 20-page paper. Or ponder a solution to the Israel-Palestine problem. But no matter how much I tell my brain to focus, it keeps returning to images of avocado toast. Yikes.

1:21 p.m. I now have a ghost lunch in my stomach. I know it would usually be in there. I can feel the free space that would usually be occupied by the toast, cheese, and tea.

1:47 p.m. Now that I think about it, I'm not actually hungry. I just don't know what to do with the time that's usually taken up by eating.

2:03 p.m. An hour has three 20-minute segments, which means I can get through 12 episodes of "The Office" —plus one and a half to cover the remaining half hour.

Oh, hi there. Sorry, I was just figuring out how much TV I'd have to watch to make it to the end of the fast. That feels doable. Only a couple more episodes than I usually watch.

3:59 p.m. I'm not trying to be dramatic but I feel a little destitute. Usually at this hour I'm planning my teatime. I keep reaching for the kettle before remembering that it's off limits today. Talk about muscle memory.

4:17 p.m. Not sure if looking at enticing food accounts on Instagram is a smart idea but it keeps me busy.

4:42 p.m. Every year, Yom Kippur proves my brother wrong. When I worked in a horse barn, he expressed surprise the horses had to be fed on Christmas day, arguing they'd already been fed enough on Christmas Eve. This day proves they're never fed enough.

5:01 p.m. I'm in a staring contest with a snack size cup of peanut butter.

5:49 p.m. I made it to temple. It wasn't very comforting to being in a room with other starving people.

6:13 p.m. There's more sitting and standing in this service than other holidays, at least that's how it feels.

6:28 p.m. The sun has set. Technically I could eat now. But I like pushing limits. It makes the reward feel better. Maybe that's why I liked crew? All I know is that I'm a survivor. Am I my own role model? Oh wait, excuse me, the Rabbi said to turn the page.

7:15 p.m. I did it! I did it! Now I can gorge myself!

7:21 p.m. Back home, and I'm full after some bread and cheese, and some salmon, and some crackers, and more cheese, and some tea with cookies, and maybe another slice of cheese.

7:27 p.m. I'm so full I can't move. I'm officially in slug mode. I don't want to eat again for a while. Hey, maybe there's a holiday designed to curb this urge. I should look into it.

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