Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the Jewish year. On Yom Kippur, Jews voluntarily “afflict our souls” by not eating or drinking anything. It’s the day upon which we are closest to God and, due to the above-mentioned fasting, also the day upon which we are closest to fitting into those jeans from five years ago that we’ve kept in the back of the closet out of misplaced nostalgia. The 25-hour fast of Yom Kippur is jam-packed with activities, running the gamut from praying and not eating, praying and not drinking, all the way to praying and laying down for an anemic nap. (Yes, we said 25 hours. Twenty-four hours? Oh, my sweet summer child! That’s weak sauce.)
The only thing that could possibly distract you from the gnawing emptiness inside your stomach for that length of time is a marathon of “Game of Thrones”—but, alas! TV is also forbidden on Yom Kippur. (“It’s not TV! It’s HBO!” we can hear you exclaim. Unfortunately, God does not discriminate between cable and premium networks.) However, we can use “Game of Thrones” GIFS as perfect reference points to get you prepped for what to expect during the Day of Atonement.
Step 1: Pregame with a festive meal
In the late afternoon, just before Yom Kippur begins at sundown, Jews traditionally eat a festive meal. While many choose to preemptively binge ahead of the fast to stave off the imminent stabbing hunger pains, others take a more moderate approach to try and train their stomachs to stop expecting so much from life. Set your stomach some very low expectations, and it won’t be so disappointed over the next day!
Hunger level: Full!
Step 2: Kol Nidre
We begin Yom Kippur with a special prayer recited in the synagogue. We recite the “Al Chet” confession of sins, wherein we hit ourselves over our hearts with a closed fist, like King Kong or George of the Jungle, but without the accompanying roar and/or yodeling. This whole experience is Shame Nun’s jam right here.
Hunger level: Easy, breezy, beautiful. Why do people complain about this? You are hydrated, you usually skip lunch at work regularly anyway—how much harder could fasting really be? You’ve GOT THIS. You will TAKE THE IRON THRONE.
Step 3: Morning prayers
You never usually wake up thirsty, but this morning you are PARCHED. Maybe you should make a commitment to drinking less alcohol and more water when Yom Kippur is over. But stay strong! Our bodies are (allegedly) 60 percent water, so you’ve got plenty of reserves to get you through the day…right?
Hunger level: Quiet tummy rumbles.
Step 4: Mid-morning prayers
How is it possible to have so many prayers squished into one day?! The prayers seem longer than usual. That’s because they ARE longer than usual, but MAN, this feels just interminable, like Bran’s storyline from Seasons 3-6. When you get to the part in the prayer where you must bow all the way down to the floor, you discover you’ve lost the energy required to stand back up again.
Hunger level: Hangry as hell.
Step 5: Time loses all meaning
Seconds last for hours. Hours last for years. Winters can last a lifetime. You try to nap but all you can think about is every carb you’ve ever eaten and how beautiful carbs are and why, as a society, are we so against carbs?! Occasionally you weakly raise your head to check the clock. It’s only been three minutes since the last time you did this. The clock is round. Bagels are round. Pizzas are round. Everything begins to look food-shaped. Are those M&Ms stuck to the front of your sweater? No. Don’t eat them. Those are buttons. Think of your teeth!
Hunger level: Hallucinations.
Step 6: Mincha (afternoon) prayer
Somehow, after the Mincha prayer, you suddenly feel slightly less faint, revived even. You’ve crossed the Red Waste and you can see Qarth in the distance. However, do not be deceived! This is a Melisandre-level illusion. This is your mind being super nice to you and covering up the fact that, clearly, your death is right around the corner.
Hunger level: Faux second wind.
Step 7: Neilah, the ending prayer
Neilah is the closing prayer of the Yom Kippur prayer-marathon. The end is in sight! The last blows of the shofar signal the end of Yom Kippur and the beginning of a fresh start for your soul!
Hunger level: OH MY GOD WE ARE JUST MINUTES AWAY FROM FOOD! FOOD! ANY AND ALL FOOD! You will NEVER skip lunch again! So AMPED for FOOD!
Step 8: Breaking the fast
It’s time to eat. SHALL WE BEGIN?
You have already inhaled a PB&J, a quart of water, three packets of saltines and a full ice-cream sundae—all within the first five minutes after Yom Kippur ends. You will eat LITERALLY ANYTHING at this stage, including sawdust, but you did have to take a short breather because as you were assembling your sandwich, your arms became too weak to spread the jelly effectively. Who knew chewing could be so exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time?! Well, Daenerys did.
Hunger level: Valar snackghulis! All men must snack!
Oh man, guys, you made it!
Feel confident that God will accept your repentance, forgive your sins and seal your verdict for a year of life, health and happiness. Your watch has ended!