Yom Kippur is the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar. It is a day when you can find even the most secular of Jews in synagogues. But I stayed home this year. If Jews believed in doing penance, my self-inflicted torture would have counted; it was as excruciating as a hair-shirt; almost as painful as the guilt inflicted by a Jewish mother. But, alas, we Jews don’t believe in penance as a vehicle for repentance.
Yom Kippur is the holiest of holy days. One is supposed to spend the day at prayer and contemplation. It is a day devoted to atonement; no work is performed and we refrain from eating and drinking (even water.) The Talmud specifies additional restrictions that are less well-known — washing and bathing, anointing one’s body (with perfume, cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes and engaging in sexual relations are among the behaviors prohibited on Yom Kippur.
But we Jews are a practical people; there are exceptions to the rules even on this holiest of holy days. These restrictions can be lifted when a threat to life or health is involved. Even if they want to, children under the age of nine and women in childbirth (from the time labor begins until three days after birth) are not permitted to fast. And of course there is an exception in wartime, for example the Yom Kippur War fought from October 6th to 25th, 1973 … which was the basis for the rationalization I used to get myself off my spiritual hook.
Complete article at The New Civil Rights Movement : http://bit.ly/pDWdaI