Of course it’s sunny out today.
After three weeks of rain upon fog upon smog here in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, we our first day of true blue skies, and I can’t go enjoy it for the same reason I can’t enjoy the frijoles and platanos I can smell in the kitchen. Today is Yom Kippur, and I’m fasting. And when I’m fasting, I have little energy (or water reserves) to take advantage of today’s surprise appearance from the sun.
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for Jews, but it has always placed a distant third in my personal religious hierarchy. Both Passover and Chanukah, with their historical lessons of liberation and their contemporary celebrations of family (and yes, abundant food), resonate on a deeper level with my politics-over-theology sensibilities.
Yet there is one lesson I take each year from this highest of holy days: sacrifice. Abstaining from eating and drinking for 24 hours is a reminder to my stomach and my spirit that although they both a crucial role in my life, but today I am prioritizing the latter. This choice, and the abilitity to fulfill it, is a show of faith in the divine, but more so, faith in people. Faith in myself, and us as a community, to place principles before comfort, if only for one cycle of the ever-elusive sun. Especially this year, here in Guatemala, Yom Kippur is not so much the Day of Atonement as it is the Day of Discipline.
For if there’s one lesson I have taken so far from my short time here in Guatemala, it is that of discipline. From the routine activities of daily life to the countless sacrifices made during and countinuing now after the country’s civil war, life here demands much of its people. And somehow, in forms both physical and political, they meet and then exceed the challenge. Not everyone makes it – far from it, unfortunately – but those that do have already provided me some strong examples.