Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Own Private Ramadan

This fall, as happens every 32 years when our two different lunar calendars intersect, the Jewish High Holy Days coincided with the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is an absolute 24-hour fast. Before sundown the night before Yom Kippur, one eats the Meal of Cessation, called Seudat Mafkeset. From then on, it's NPO, nothing by mouth. You don't even brush your teeth, lest a drop of water be swallowed.

Finally, after sundown the next day, the fast is broken with a traditional meal that varies by culture. The Sephardic custom is egg-lemon soup, avgolemono. We Ashkenazim go for a dairy meal--bagels, cream cheese, smoked fish, cheese blintzes. (A traditional Yom Kippur greeting is "May you have an easy fast!" My own family of origin took that to its limits, enjoying the fast-breaking feast without ever enduring the fast itself.)

Ramadan is very different, an entire month alternating diurnally between fasting and feasting. Fasting during the daylight hours is still a considerable feat and sacrifice, especially when Ramadan, which migrates through the solar year, falls in the longest days of summer. The faithful stoke up with Suhur, the morning meal, before dawn, and cannot refuel again until Iftar, the festive evening meal. (Harira, above left, is an Iftar tradition in Morocco, lamb stew with lentils and chickpeas.)

What does all this have to do with me? I have never kept the Yom Kippur fast, and wouldn't even notice when Ramadan came around if we weren't at war in two Muslim countries. By next week, maybe three.

But lately, on many days each week, I seem to be simply putting off eating until late in the day. In short, I am finally doing what my blog title says, Waiting For Hungry. No breakfast except coffee, no lunch, no snacks. Finally, in mid-afternoon, I allow myself a meal.

It's my own private Ramadan.


  1. David, where are you? Weren't you going to write on eggs? I wanna hear about eggs.

  2. Feast or famine...feast AND famine... interesting. Ramadan, Yom Kippur, and Lent remind me of a picnic table orbiting around us like a moon, one side perpetually light and empty, the other side a darkly dripping feast. Whatever it is we are meant to learn from alternating feast and fast, apparently all major religions universally deem it an important lesson. Nice to know there is something they agree on. Now if only we could figure out what that was...


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