Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yom Kippur 5773

My family has a 20+ year history with alcoholism, and the wretched disease has recently flared up with yet another member.

So just as I've been working long hours each day through the summer and six days each week for the past month to get ready for the Jewish High Holidays, I've also been dealing with stress on the home front. We all have our holiday traditions, and mishigas ([mish-ih-GAHS] = Yiddish for "craziness") in my personal life seems to be one of mine at the Jewish New Year. Last year, I walked out on a nearly 2-year relationship; this year, I took a loved one to rehab. I need some happier ways to celebrate!

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest and most somber day on the Jewish calendar. It is a time of reflection, of fasting, of assessing, of making amends ... kinda like a 4th Step in Alcoholics Anonymous, I realized last night. Several steps after that one are also applicable.

For those of you who are blessedly unfamiliar with the 12 Steps, here they are:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

At Yom Kippur, steps 4-10 are expected to be followed. We are to search deep into our selves and into our souls. We are to not just apologize but, where possible, to atone - to make amends, to compensate, to make right. We are to do this with God and with our fellow humans. Some things we've said or done simply can't be put back together or forgotten ... perhaps can't even yet be forgiven. But that doesn't absolve us of the mandate to try.

In "Babette's Feast," one of my most cherished favorite movies (it's about food, I admit it, but it's about so much more than food), there is a line that states "Mercy imposes no conditions."

Having been raised Catholic, with the sacrament of confession to a priest who then offered absolution and an act of penance to perform, I admit I'm still in favor of some form of action even when granted mercy. Not necessarily that anyone needs to do this for me, although I don't begrudge anyone's personal need to feel as though a particular situation has been righted in a way that makes him or her comfortable. But I feel it's necessary for myself, to not just apologize but to take active steps to right any wrongs, to the extent that I can.

And so, as I'm whipped back into the A.A. fold - with its steps and slogans and wisdom - I feel that Catholic confession, Jewish atonement, and the 4th Step are all variations on the same thing: taking personal responsibility for my actions, for my words. This is something I strive for on a daily basis; but it's meaningful to have a special day assigned for it, to prepare for this assessment and the humility required to do it properly.

I'm not a fasting kinda girl, even though it's supposed to be required from sundown last night until sundown today - I think it's medically unsound to go without food and water for 25 hours, although I do at least set limits for myself. But the rest of the day's expectations - the moral inventory, the acknowledgement of wrongdoing, the apologies, the atoning - these are all essential.

Thus, there's no food offering today, unless you consider the reference to the movie or, perhaps, food for thought ....



Check 'em out on AnnArbor.com:
Yesterday: Recap of the Girl Scout Cookie Bake-Off
Today: Raspberry Mustard Marmalade Sauce

4 comments:

Merrill said...

I think that somewhere in the steps should be something about forgiving ourselves. Addiction is a disease, not something that we choose for ourselves, and while we need to admit and work to treat our chronic disease condition, we also need sometimes to stop beating ourselves up for things that we can't change.

We can admit wrongs we've done. We can admit those wrongs and ask forgiveness and then forgive ourselves.

Angela said...

Beautiful post, Mary, though I am so sorry for the trials that inspired the words. Sending you love and strength.

Cat Chat With Caren And Cody said...

Mary i am also sorry that you are going through this yet again.
Not sure if you knew but Jewish alcoholics aren't the norm. That obviously isn't to say that they do not exist. It is just not common to find a Jew who is an alcoholic

Chris said...

Hate to hear about the family stress. Family has its ups and downs, I'm just glad the person reached out for help, at least.

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