I had approached a recent 10 day summer holiday in Scotland with a bit of trepidation, expecting endless cold rain and being stuck in pubs eating chips for lack of any other food. Instead, it was unexpectedly filled with mostly sunshine and great vegan food. Except for having to eat a potato chip sandwich and cashews during a 17 mile hike, I found vegan food everywhere–even in a tiny town with only one pub. Another memorable hike was one with endless wild blackberry bushes; those berries not eaten instantly were picked and turned into jam that evening and enjoyed for the remainder of the trip on crackers. And, best of all, Glasgow was crowned with the glorious title of being the vegan capital of the UK.
After Rosh Hashana in Sicily, I took a coastal train to Naples, a city that I was pleasantly surprised by with its picturesque mountainous bay setting, and bustling historic streets. Just blocks from where I stayed in the vibrant waterfront Piazza Vittoria neighborhood, an area filled with boutiques, bars, and cafes, is the city’s sole synagogue. Funded by Baron Rothschild in the 1860s, it is still open for the city’s approximately 150 Jews. The only give-away to its presence was a guard located at a set of massive wooden doors (which one stepped through) at the entrance of a large apartment complex’s courtyard. At the other end of the courtyard, up a discreet staircase, was the entrance to the synagogue. Continue reading
The anxieties of abstaining from food and water on Yom Kippur (and enduring an expected heat wave in Los Angeles this weekend) start to dance around my head months before the actual holiday. As I try to do the important work of teshuva, I keep thinking: How am I going to prepare for and survive the fast?! How many late summer conversations do I have with my coffee drinking friends about their preferred caffeine withdrawal techniques?
Needless to say, I probably don’t need to remind anyone of the billion plus people worldwide who experience many days like this from lack of access to or fresh water each week, month, year. Or the 46.5 million Americans who are hungry (21 million children, 7 million seniors). Unlike the daily struggles billions of people endure, this is one day for Jews without food or water.
And even though my mind admittedly will at times be distracted by a visual loop equivalent to the Food Network, Yom Kippur is really a gift. It’s an opportunity to try to move into a deep spiritual realm that is beyond our physical dimensions. Continue reading