Curbing Anger, Switching to Decaf: Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day on the Jewish Calendar, begins tonight at sundown. It is a day of deep self-reflection and examination. Included in the liturgy of the day is a prayer we say over and over again throughout the 25-hour fast. The Al Cheyt prayer is a laundry list of sins and transgressions that we may have committed during the year. Most of them are not against Gd. The big sins listed are not: I played golf on Saturday instead of attending synagogue; or I ate a bacon double cheeseburger at McDonald’s ……

Most of the transgressions that are found within the prayers in Yom Kippur involve what fellow human beings do and think about one another. Most of the sins involve our ill behaviour. Most of the sins involve crimes of ill speech.

I asked my Hebrew school students what wrongdoings they see in their immediate lives. And from what they told me, we live in an angry society.

  • One student, while waiting in line at Wegmans, overheard a customer yelling at a cashier that she had charged her too much for an item.
  • Another student, again at Wegmans, witnessed one customer chasing another customer claiming that he had hit her shopping cart with his and had not apologized.
  • One kid said his dad yelled way too much
  • Another hand went up and a seventh grader confessed that his mom got mad because a food server at a Bruggers Bagels informed her that they did not have the exact flavor of bagel she had requested.

Road rage. Rage against stewardesses on airplanes. Angry Birds. Let’s face it, there is way too much anger in our society.

I am no innocent in this department.

This week my family experienced an onslaught of technical difficulties. My bottom freezer would not seal properly and there was a snowstorrm of frost accumulating. I quickly blamed this in my youngest son, who often puts all his weight (well, he is only in the fifth percentile of his age group for weight) on the freezer door when looking for an ice cream treat. The frostier my freezer became, the angrier I got at my son.

My computer, a Lenovo, which really turned out to be a Lemono, had to go back in the shop,for a third time. I was getting very angry at the business that sold me this computer.

As I spent the entire Monday morning waiting for the Sears repairman to come for my freezing freezer, I could feel my anger swelling. Where was he? Why did  I have to reschedule my day and wait around from 8 a.m to 12 p.m. and here it was 12 and he still had not yet arrived?

When he did come, I did not greet him as warmly as I should.   But he did to me. Mike the Sears repair guy shook my hand as he humbly apologized for being stuck at another call all morning fixing a tricky washing machine. He put on plastic booties over his shoes so he would not bring extra dirt into my already messy house.

He quickly pulled all the shelving out of my freezer. Got to the bottom of the problem: too much build-up of frost around the door. My son was off the hook. Mike also remarked that he had been here before and asked how my oven was doing.

He had been to my house to repair an oven I had long replaced. He remembered me.

After cleaning out my freezer, he apologized for getting melted ice on my floor as he replaced the freezer shelving. My anger melted.
“Really, it’s all okay.” I said.

God sends signs in funny ways to help us put life in perspective. Sometimes, it’s in the form of Mike the repairman.

This year, I will pray to try once again to stop myself from jumping to angry conclusions.

Maybe curbing my caffeine habit will help. At the very least, it will prevent a caffeine withdrawal headache that is bound to hit most of us fasters by 2 p.m. tomorrow.

May your Yom Kippur Fast be one that is meaningful and anger-free.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

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