(On Not Suffering) Caffeine Suppositories (Yom Kippur)


After excruciating headaches this Yom Kippur, I appreciate that this definitely seems to be a thing. From the Forward, you  can read the article here about the use of caffeine suppositories to ease the horrible effects of withdrawal on the Yom Kippur fast. For the high-minded, file this under the categories of “religion,” “ritual,” and “the body.” There is no appreciation for pain in the Jewish liturgical tradition. Against the severity of the fast and other restrictions imposed by the Mishnah and aware of the atoning power of suffering, the holiday Machzor is, for all that, more forgiving about human flesh, and more coy in its expression before the Almighty.  Between Rosh Ha’Shanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holiday liturgy returns to this thought many times. Here I am, a vessel filled with shame. Be it your will, God that I sin no more, and cleanse me of sin, but not through suffering and severe illness. Because no one should suffer too much, not even on Yom Kippur. I don’t think I’m simply making this up.

הֲרֵי אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ

Here I am before You

כִּכְלִי מָלֵא בוּשָׁה וּכְלִמָּה.

like a vessel filled with shame.

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶֽיךָ

May it be Your will,

יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהַי וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתַי

Adonoy, my God, and the God of my fathers,

שֶׁלֹּא אֶחֱטָא עוֹד.

that I shall sin no more,

וּמַה שֶּׁחָטָֽאתִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ

and the sins I have committed before You,

מָרֵק בְּרַחֲמֶֽיךָ הָרַבִּים.

cleanse them in Your abundant mercies;

אֲבָל לֹא עַל יְדֵי

but not through

יִסּוּרִים וָחֳלָיִם רָעִים:

suffering and severe illness.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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