“Olivia—I think you need to forgive yourself.”
Over the weekend was Yom Kippur – one of the holiest days in Judaism. It is a day for reflection, prayer, introspection and most importantly a day to seek forgiveness for past wrong doings and to resolve how to avoid them in the future. You also fast from the sundown before through the next day. Some Jews will spend the day in temple at services, or just go part of the day, but the fasting is a big part of the day. The fasting is one of five other forbidden activities (marital relations, shoes, bathing, perfumes) all meant deliberately to make you feel…well…uncomfortable? The idea being that feeling pain or discomfort in your own body will remind you to be more empathetic toward suffering of others. There’s also a humbling aspect in the quest for forgiveness—you are to seek out forgiveness not so much from the divine, but the actual persons you wronged.
I’ve ranted about in the past most people are only really aware of Hanukkah. I get it, we have a lot of holidays in the tribe, but Yom Kippur is arguably one of, if not THE most important. One Jewish woman I have a lot of respect for pointed out how Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur really differ in part because they are more about improving yourself and your community. All the other Jewish holidays fall into a common theme: They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat and drink a LOT.
I’m explaining all this you see because it came up when I was having lunch with a coworker the other day; a much overdue catch up after not chatting for months despite working in the same building. It’s amazing how fast time goes by and you can go days without even speaking to someone on the same floor just because you are too damn focused on everything that needs to get done. Anyway this woman is someone who I really connected with when I first started, a true kindred spirit, and I’ve always enjoyed getting to sit down and just chat about non-work things with her. I was explaining Yom Kippur, what it is and why I was fasting and I got to the bit about how I always loved that we seek forgiveness during this holiday not just from the divine but from the people we’ve hurt. You don’t have to be forgiven but I’ve found that most people who really take this holiday to heart want to forgive when they can. You empathize with those who may sincerely want to make amends because you will inevitably have something you wish you could have fixed, done differently, or just make up for in the last year. It’s a really cathartic experience when you embrace it. Kind of like a facial for your soul.
My friend looked at me and her response to my explanation of the holiday was: Olivia I think you need to forgive yourself.
It floored me. It got to me. How she knew I needed to hear that, we hadn’t been talking about anything specifically related to prompt it, but I needed to hear it. Well hear it again. It’s not the first time and it probably won’t be the last. The hardest thing in the world for me to do is to forgive myself. I feel always like I need permission to do so and I never get enough. I can forgive others, when they deserve it and sometimes even when they don’t. Trust is another issue mind you, forgiveness I may give but trust is an entirely different matter. Anyway back to the key point: I have always been my hardest critic. It’s part of being Type A, INFJ, DISC- C and whatever other personality profiling you use to describe me. It’s also part of having BDD. No one has ever been better at attacking me, tearing me apart, than I am. So I spent a lot of Yom Kippur this year reflecting on how this inability to forgive myself has been a hindrance. How it has in turn enabled others to hurt me or worse contributed to slights and injuries I may have cast on others. It’s so much easier to make a positive change or raise your voice on behalf of another than yourself. If my self-flagellation can be used as weapon against others then maybe I can find the strength to stop and in doing so, really finally find a way to be less hard on myself.
One way is to embrace something I never ever ever eat because it is so so not good for you. Not at all. See growing up my mom was always diet conscious. I don’t think there was ever a time she wasn’t trying to lose weight, which let’s be real, is most women so that’s not a criticism. Carbs were always minimized in our house and as a result we didn’t really ever eat Kugel. Kugel, as I explained once before, is basically a catch-all term for a Jewish casserole that’s made with noodles or potatoes, is savory or sweet, is loaded with fat, carbs and often times sugar and holds little value other than being the comfortiest of comfort foods. What makes something comfortiest? Well I guess that’s because eat enough of it and you’ll become a cushion all of your own. It’s a great next day dish which is why it is so popular for Yom Kippur. It can be made the day before and kept for the end of the fast.
It is also a traditional way to break the fast after Yom Kippur. I resolved this year to make a batch, have it ready and eat something that I would almost never take more than a tiny bite of and refuse to feel guilty for it. Since we never ate it much at home I don’t have a staple recipe that reminds me of “Mom’s Kugel” and I went with just a basic, simple savory recipe using what I know goes in almost any staple Kugel. A good noodle kugel is basically just Jewish Mac n Cheese made with sour cream, cottage cheese, eggs and egg noodles. While high on the dairy load it’s also meat free so it’s a great Meatless Monday dinner option too if you’re only trying to reduce animal but not animal by-products from your diet. This dish isn’t flashy, it isn’t going to make you tastebuds swirl with new flavor combinations never before imagined and it doesn’t require fancy equipment. It is just a humble casserole that would be great to bake and take to eat while sitting with a friend and have a real heart to heart. I wrote this recipe to make two servings of a whole meal. If you are taking to a party or a big dinner double it and you’ll easily have 8 side portions instead. Oh and I couldn’t help myself, I had to at least use whole wheat noodles and I skipped the sugar. I just wanted something savory and not sweet….
Humble Yom Kippur Kugel Read more