I Can Have My Bacon And Eat It, Too

via lickthebowlgood

Religion is a funny thing. Last week the Jewish high holidays happened, and every year right about now, I tend to get introspective and unordinarily gung-ho about “recommitting” myself to Judaism (or whatever you want to call efforts I should be making year-round to not be considered the horrible Jew I am).

I don’t think you have to follow all the rules and believe every story to be part of a religion. In fact, one of the things I love about Judaism, in extremely simple terms, is that it’s so much more than a religion.

Religion is just a small part of what’s involved in being a Jew. But then again, anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Seinfeld or been to a Channukah party knows that.

The high holidays, for my gentile friends not in the know, consist of two main parts, the first being Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. It’s a two-night holiday that starts a ten-day period of introspection (that’s actually supposed to go on the entire month leading up to Rosh Hashanah), capped off by the second part of the holidays, Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, which you may know as the day we sit schvitzing in temple, saying “I’m sorry” and promising to be better Jews, all the while bitching about our growling stomachs and how it’s totally not fair that we can’t even chew gum to hold us over.

Now, I openly admit that I’m a bad Jew. I don’t go to synagogue, I don’t keep kosher (I sincerely believe if God really didn’t want us to eat bacon, he wouldn’t have made it so delicious), I wear polyester… But every year at Rosh Hashanah, I get nostalgic for Hebrew school and retreats and baking challah and singing and, believe it or not, sitting in temple.

Of course, I’m sitting at my desk as I write this, having awkwardly dodged my boss’s question of why I wasn’t in temple today. But it means something that it’s at least on my mind, right?

Somewhere in that crazy brain of mine is a piece reserved for religion, carved out early on, in my formative years spent in Jewish preschool and summer camps, singing “Pharaoh, Pharoah” to the tune of “Louie, Louie.” During the first ten days of the year, it gets overstimulated, then craps out at Christmas parties, where they serve delicious things like bacon-wrapped dates and honey-glazed ham.

Still, I take the meaning of the holiday to heart and am generally a nicer person in September and October, trying to make up for broken promises, severed ties, and anything else I might have done to just piss someone off.

A large part of me considers my religious oscillation complete hypocrisy, and my lame attempt at annual redemption a veritable joke. It’s a typical example of how the average person will take something some people consider to be the holiest, most solemn time and take advantage of it—make light of it—so they can feel like a better person.

Just because I fast for a day doesn’t make up for the fact that the rest of the year, I “sin” and enjoy it. Just because I fast for a day doesn’t mean all those people I’ve wronged will forgive me, or that I’m one step closer to the promised land. All it means is that I fast for a day and unintentionally lose a few pounds.

Giving something up for a short period of time—say, for Yom Kippur or Lent—doesn’t make you a better Jew or Catholic. But I still do it, and I still feel that I’m fulfilling an obligation, that I’m being at least somewhat dutiful, connecting to the community I love, reminding myself why I love it, remembering that there’s more to religion than standing in the pews reciting Kaddish and the Amidah.

When all the horrible Jews get together to break the fast, and we’re kvetching about the sun taking too long to set, just to piss us off, I know what it’s like to be a part of something bigger than yourself, to participate in millennium-long traditions, to have a place somewhere.

And if they have bacon and cheeseburgers in that place, even better.

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Allison Schein

Latest posts by Allison Schein (see all)

39 comments

  • I don’t think joining in the rituals once a year makes you a hypocrite. If you do it for the beauty of it or what it means to you, more power to you. I think it would be more hypocritical to drag yourself to services year round out of guilt or for show. Worse yet, sitting in judgment of others and their reasons for going or not going. You’re participating in only the parts you feel drawn to–that seems very honest to me.

    Also, I’d like to add: bacon and cream cheese?! Why have I never thought of that combo before???

  • This is interesting, I am not Jewish but your blog struck a chord for something I have struggled with. Can we pick and choose what parts of religion we want to or if were in are we all in?

  • It’s a matter of self control and how you really value yourself and you’re faith.. You have you’re own faith and understanding, its not really mandatory to follow things which is unconfortable… would it be better to do things which are comfortable? God would be happier knowing that, you are doing things which you are comfortable with…

    http://expressivemind.wordpress.com/

  • @wicklessrbbrown:

    That’s an interesting way to put it. Maybe religion is like poker: you can’t just go all-in on every hand, or you’ll go broke. You have to know just how many chips to put in each time. 😉

  • Haha, as a lapsed Lutheran turned Quaker, I still consider the time I gave up chocolate for Lent to be one of the darkest periods of my life 🙂 And I thought “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” were the real (and only) words to that song for years!

  • Or… *cough cough* maybe one of the “lightest” periods of your life.

    *rimshot*

  • Shana tova then!

    And dont forget that new years as well as all new things come from the inside and not from the calendar, after all calendars are made by mathematicians and we are all crazy, arent we 😉

  • It’s always the bacon. It gets everyone.

  • I love the blog, when you have a moment check out my blog post about life from a British Asian perspective. You might find some of it quite interesting. x

  • Thank you so much for this insightful and well-written article.

    I’m a cafeteria Catholic (take what you like, leave the icky stuff), But I still participate in some of the heavier rituals, like Lent and Easter Vigil (yes, I’m the kind of Catholic you see twice a year at church – deal.). And like you, I’m not doing it to try to catch up or cash-in. I’m doing it to reconnect and see how I can make myself a better person. I think one of the biggest messages of those times of the year is that change often includes a sacrifice of some sort (to get healthy you have to give up some snacks, to be a part of the community you have to give up your free time, etc.) And being able to have that reconnection or reminder is an important way of remembering that it’s not all about me. There are bigger things going on and sometimes it takes something big in your life to realize that.

  • If bacon is God’s way of testing the Jews, I am sure glad to be a gentile.

  • Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Getting pressed was awesome, and it wasn’t as painful as some people told me it would be—Wordpress was very gentle and loving.

    I really do believe religion is a personal, internal thing that you make your own, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. I think Jaberkaty summed it up pretty well—change takes sacrifice, but that sacrifice is specific to each person. Connection doesn’t have to be reciting monotone call and response prayers or even going to church or temple on a regular basis, but it is something you have to be able to quantify, at some point. For some people, going to Shabbat services makes them feel like a Jew. For me, it’s feeling guilty when I eat delicious prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches and giving up leavened goods at Passover. And bitching about the weather, of course.

  • Well, sure. That’s cuz you were pressed while still fresh. If they had waited until you were stale and stiff… believe me, THAT would’ve hurt a lot more.

  • Great Post! It surely looks tempting. I think it is must that I try this in the future.

  • aaahahahah I went on a date with a Jew that loved bacon. I love bacon lovers. In the end though it’s your choice and your life and you choose what to believe or not believe. If you believe that bacon is tasty, then all the power to you.

  • Hey there, Goldie! Good to see you still around.

    If you believe that bacon is tasty, then all the power to you.

    So… What if I believe that human flesh is tasty? More power to me? :-p

  • Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

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