As part of our Yom Kippur observances, many of us will fast. It is an attempt to control or overcome our physical needs in order to concentrate on the spiritual tasks of repentance and atonement. As a result, one of the greetings of the day is tzom kal, meaning “easy fast,” as in “May you have an easy fast.” Somehow, this phrase has always struck me as diverting our attention away from the task at hand, to grapple with and overcome our instinctive behaviors in order to learn the lesson that we are thinking beings, capable of rising above our physical needs. I prefer to offer the greeting “may your fast be a meaningful one.” Another option is to reference the metaphor of the Book of Life, and offer “G’mar Chatima Tovah,” May you be sealed for good [in the Book of Life].
Some of us may be unable to fast due to reasons of health. Our Sages teach that no one should ever put themselves in physical danger in order to observe a commandment. Pikuach hanefesh (“saving a life”) describes the principle in Jewish law that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule. If you will not be fasting, please remember to pick up a copy of “A Meditation for Those Unable to Fast” at the end of the Kol Nidre service.
G’mar hatimah tovah!
Rabbi Sandra M. Bellush