The 12 steps to fasting during COVID-19.

  1. Do the reading. Decide that, this year, you’re definitely going to taper off your caffeine consumption so you can avoid the inevitable headache on the morning of Yom Kippur. Instantly forget to do that and drink a cup of coffee.
  2. Drink about 10 glasses of water the day before and, if you’re back at the office, bother your boss because you have to get up to pee every 15 minutes. Tell him that it’s religious peeing and if he gets on your case about it, you’re telling HR. Hopefully he laughs.
  3. A non-Jewish person reacts with horror when you say you cannot drink water while fasting. “You must be able to drink water!” they say, forgetting that people can survive for three full days without water and you’re a perfectly healthy adult. Remind them that it’s not like you’re wandering in the desert for 40 years. It’s one day. You’ll be fine.
  4. Set an alarm for civil twilight on Erev Yom Kippur. Fifteen minutes after civil twilight, decide you are incredibly thirsty. Think dry thoughts.
  5. The morning of Yom Kippur, stare at your closet and think about eating pancakes. You haven’t thought about eating pancakes in like a year. Why are you thinking about pancakes? Cut it out.
  6. Usually, you would head to shul, but not this year. Instead, you settle in to watch a streamed service. The rules of fasting state that you cannot brush your teeth. Feel a little grateful that the only morning breath you can smell is your own.
  7. Your mouth is dry. Try not to think about it. Someone on your fire escape is drinking a bottle of water. Stare at them as if you can somehow Professor X yourself into not feeling thirsty.
  8. Think about how much of your day revolves around food: preparing it, eating it, doing dishes. Yom Kippur is a period free from all that planning, and that would be worth thinking with all this free time. Consider the implications of fasting for about 30 seconds before thinking about pancakes again.
  9. You had to work while fasting last year because the only other Jewish person beat you to calling out. At least you’re not vacantly staring from your desk this year. Vacantly stare at your apartment wall instead.
  10. About halfway through the day, have an incredible moment of clarity. You feel so connected to your religion, to God, to the community with whom you are sharing this incredible experience. You understand everything and even your dry mouth seems holy in its own way. Enjoy this moment.
  11. The moment lasts for about 25 minutes, and there are still six hours left before civil twilight. Take a nap.
  12. Wake up incredibly disoriented to the sound of your twilight alarm. Drink the most glorious glass of water you’ve had since you drank a glass of water at the end of last year’s fast. Eat bagels and cream cheese with the people in your household, Jewish or not. Drink a cup of coffee even though it’s 7 p.m. Forgive yourself for your faults from the previous year and begin again with a fresh heart.