Soon I will eat the same dinner that I have eaten for the last sixty years of my life, every time, before the fast of the day of atonement. The fast is not the same, not the same at all as the other fasts in the year, which are fasts of sorrow, or fasts of memorial, or fasts to torture our spirits… No, this is a fast that is meant to allow us maximum focus and direction of our mental and emotional capabilities. And so, the meal before the fast is something like a feast, with the intention that we will not be bothered by the need for physical pleasure of any kind while concentrating on the work ahead.
All these years, I have started the final meal before the fast, first with a slice of sweet bread made with honey, and having raisins inside. And the bread is supposed to be round, to symbolize the years which go round… and is sweet as a symbol of our wish for this new year to be sweet. And I continue with a bowl of chicken soup and dumplings, and afterwards eat chicken, with potatoes and other vegetables, and finish with a piece of cake. Through the meal I will drink a lot of water and juice, so that I won’t dry out during the fast. For we neither eat nor drink all day. Those who know me well, know that I eat chicken only very rarely. But this is the meal that my mother used to make on the eve of atonement, and I have continued in the same tradition to this day.
And what is the work? To go to the innermost room of my being, deep inside my mind, in that private place, where my thoughts and feelings rest… and sometimes are thrown one way or the other, like clothes that are tossed on the backs of chairs after a long day… before retiring. In fact, my inner room has become somewhat disordered and neglected, in the intensity of living life. And now, I will go to work to bring order to that room. Every thing that’s been left on a table or a shelf is to be examined, and returned to its proper place. And the floor is to be washed, as are the tables and chairs and the shelves. And the window glass, and the handles of the doors. And of course, the junk is to be thrown out, along with those things that are no longer necessary, and those things that I don’t remember why or how I got them, and what they’re for. And when I’m done, my room will be very orderly. I will know where everything is. I will be ready to meet my maker. I will be ready to leave this world, without embarrassment about what I leave behind. And if I have another year to live, I will try to live it well.