Yom Kippur Lite

With my brother dressed for High Holidays

With my brother dressed for High Holidays

This is a big weekend and I’m not talking Trojan Football. It’s Yom Kippur, which means I’ll be directed to “please rise” and to “please be seated” several dozen times in shul while trying to remember my questionable decisions and off-color remarks and atoning for things I could’ve done better this year. I’ll also attempt to read Hebrew, which is a lost cause much to my mom’s chagrin since she’s the one who drove me to Hebrew school three times a week for years but the language didn’t ‘take.’

Every September, instead of going into deep reflection, I end up remembering Yom Kippurs from the past.

Mind you, I’m not remembering them to gauge whether or not I’ve become a better person this year. (I haven’t.) The memories are not spiritual despite the fact that I grew up attending services in seats my dad purchased near the front row where we were “closer to God” according to some at Temple Beth Am. Where did that put my best friend Liz and her family who sat in the balcony every year, almost in the back row? I always liked it better up there. Nobody flashed the stink eye for whispering. Trust me, there was plenty to whisper about: When are they going to serve the cookies to the little kids downstairs so we could steal some? How soon is this going to be over? If you brush your teeth did that mean you broke the fast?

When Liz and I got too antsy, we snuck downstairs into a dark room called “The Hall of Memories” where we hid and read the little brass plaques inscribed with names of the dead so they would not be forgotten. One of my grandparents had her name inscribed and I  pointed this out to my friend. She was impressed.

At some point, I’d slither back to my seat and my dad and I would play a silent game of thumb wars. His big dentist hands were strong and I’m glad he never inadvertently dislocated a digit. Then I’d start braiding the strands of his tallit wondering how soon I could get home and eat. Had we not been expected to fast, I could have forgone food for days. It was the specter of being hungry that tortured me.

It still does. I don’t fast unless I’m having a colonoscopy. My boys don’t fast either. I’m a lousy role model, which brings me back to the whole atoning thing. I could be a more observant Jew. I’ll work on that for next Yom Kippur.

Breaking the Fast and posing for dad's camera

Breaking the Fast and posing for dad’s camera


Author Description

Cynthia Baseman

Cynthia Baseman is the author of 'Love, Mom: A Mother's Journey from Loss to Hope.' She writes about motherhood, the environment and education.

There are 15 comments. Add yours

  1. 17th September 2013 | Greg says: Reply
    I can picture those little finger tips tracing names so they won't be forgotten .... Yom Kippur is all about remembering. I like it.
  2. 16th September 2013 | susanscottsa says: Reply
    Ritual ... there's value in that. And your post is soulful. Thank you! And Shonah Tovah albeit late, may you and family be refreshed and renewed in this New Year.
  3. 16th September 2013 | Hayley Kaplan says: Reply
    I admire your honesty.
  4. 15th September 2013 | Carpool Goddess says: Reply
    Love the photo and the memories! I used to braid the strands of my dad's tallit too!
  5. 15th September 2013 | Darren the Dad says: Reply
    What a shame that such a spiritually rich heritage introduced in childhood is so taken for granted in adulthood.
  6. 15th September 2013 | Ellen Lory says: Reply
    love from me coming your way
  7. 15th September 2013 | Jordan says: Reply
    You were clearly incredibly present while there to have such vivid details. I think it's so wonderful that you've recorded them all here.
    • 15th September 2013 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      I never thought of it that way - especially since I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday. That's a sign, isn't it:(
  8. 14th September 2013 | Mamacita says: Reply
    Wonderful memories of Yom Kippur with the family. Now I can enjoy new memories with my handsome Grandsons who bring laughter and joy to my life.
  9. 14th September 2013 | susan kolko says: Reply
    We could be more observant too these days. Our family has come full circle, this year attending services at the Laugh Factory. Services were pretty good and the air conditioning is phenomenal. ( Coming from Chabad - thats a noticeable difference) We sat up in the Balcony and looked down on everyones lack of body part coverage ( that would be cleavage ) ..laughs for sure. Yes, we are fasting but who knows - it might just be until breakfast. Now that I have finally seen every kid through to a Mitzvah service and a hoedown, a BH Mom 'religious leave of absence' is exactly what the doctor ordered. After all, it doesn't matter how observant we are, it still adds up to the same amount of Jew. RIght?..
  10. 14th September 2013 | fromdorothea says: Reply
    one of the best things about living in Israel: one silent and pollution-free day throughout the country - YOm Kippur. The national sport seems to be fasting or getting on your bike ( mainly children) but no one cares what you do inside your house. YOm Kippur always gives me an appetite and is good day for writing. Shana Tova!
  11. 14th September 2013 | Jim bennett says: Reply
    Thanks for being my friend Baseman
  12. 14th September 2013 | Michelle says: Reply
    Oh my gosh - that looks like Garrett standing with you in that pic! Very sweet & love hearing your memories.

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