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Barry Lewis

A day of atonement

Barry Lewis
Posted 9/30/22

A friend came up to me at a recent 5K race and asked me if I ever run.

I reminded him that I compete as a walker. So, no, I don’t run. I walk. It’s what we walkers do. If I did run, …

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Barry Lewis

A day of atonement


A friend came up to me at a recent 5K race and asked me if I ever run.

I reminded him that I compete as a walker. So, no, I don’t run. I walk. It’s what we walkers do. If I did run, I’d be a cheating walker.

Yeah, he asked, so then what about the guy he saw running in my “walkers division” race. The guy even got a trophy for being the first place walker. My friend said the guy must run when he doesn’t think anyone is looking. Maybe others do the same. Knock off a few seconds. So why don’t I run?

The best explanation I could come up with for not running was the comparison I made to not eating on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

It’s when Jews across the world conclude a 10-day period known as the High Holy Days, during which we are to reflect, resolve and repent for our past indiscretions.

It’s when we search deep inside our souls to recognize the sins committed against others. And attempt to atone for those sins. How do we do that? With prayer. We do a lot of praying. And we seek forgiveness from those we have wronged.

And we deny ourselves of many of life’s basic pleasures. I’m talking a complete, 25-hour fast that will begin before sunset on Tuesday night. Other less well-known restrictions on Yom Kippur include not washing and bathing, anointing one’s body (with cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes and engaging in sexual relations.

Hey, no one said repenting was easy.

Honestly, most years I feel that I need more than one day to atone. I’m actually fine without the eating (let’s not get into the other stuff). It’s no coffee that kills. For a guy who averages about 10 cups a day, it’s a lot of repenting.

But I’m not complaining.

I consider it a cleansing of my soul — not to mention my colon. And it’s certainly a small act of contrition.

I believe there’s also a code of honor that comes with fasting.

I was never in the military. Last time I wore a uniform was as a Webelo Scout. But I do think there is something special about adhering to a code of honor. You hear a lot about it from the cadets at West Point.

Being motivated to do right, not because it says so in some book, or because someone had to remind you, or some kind of Big Brother device is watching. But because YOU know.

Maybe it’s the idea that you can get away with something. That no one else would ever know. And still you do what’s right. Most of the time.

We’re still human.

And it’s because of all our foibles during the year that we have plenty of reason to atone for our sins. Plenty.

When you get more change back than you should, do you always alert the cashier?

Always sick on a sick day?

Too aggressive on the road?

Should I audit your books?

Like I said, we’re all human.

This brings me back to why I don’t sneak a bite during my fast on Yom Kippur. And why I don’t sneak a quick run during my walking race.

Why would I?

Who would I be fooling?

When I walk, I challenge myself to do better. Work to beat my last time. Strive to improve. Cheat and I’d just be lying to myself.

When I fast on Yom Kippur, I atone for past indiscretions. Challenge myself to be a better person. Acknowledge there’s room for improvement. Cheat here and I wouldn’t just be lying to myself.

Barry Lewis is a longtime journalist and author who lives with his wife Bonnie in the Town of Neversink. He can be reached at barrylewisscdemocrat@gmail.com.


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