It’s a fact, one third of the general population will sneeze when exposed to bright light, particularly sunlight. The other two thirds have no sense of the scope of good endorphins pumped into the system or the frequency that sun-sneezers experience. For me, it’s a pleasure that I take for granted.
On Yom Kippur, we do everything we can to appear clean and pure in our service to the creator. So much so that we are supposed to be on the level of angels on that day. We wear our best shabbos clothes, and we cover it all up with a white shroud. We don’t even eat. And this is supposed to make us even more angelic… because angels are completely spiritual beings who have no need for food. So whats the problem? Well… headaches, dizziness, lethargy, general physical discomfort. Decidedly un-angelic.
So, after a few years of being slowly enmeshed into my hassidic community, I asked around about fasting and coping. The answer to this is a house blended concoction of caffeine and tylenol, ground up and mixed with glycerin, and formed into suppositories, available for purchase by request at the local apothecary. It went something like this:
Door: *deedoo deedoo*
Me: Happy Tuesday
Pharmacist: Happy Tuesday
We always greet each other like this, our code for acknowledging mundane daily life.
Me: Do you have the special medicine for Yontif?
Pharmacist: Which one?
Me: The one that enters differently.
Pharmacist (now with a smile): Exit only?
Me: Yes…exit only.
Five bucks towards a day’s comfort.
I had never felt more in control of my physicality. Mastery over the body was now going to translate right into uninterrupted prayer, confession, and meditation.
But, I still didn’t know the timing. Do you do it before the holiday in the evening? Do you wait till the next morning after you’ve had a movement? So many mysteries. So, my friend who turned me on to this method told me, “For sure in the morning, after you’ve done your business.”
“But how do you shove it in, if you can’t really wash your hands on the holiday?”
“Just wash the fingertips,” he says.
I can do better, I have disposable rubber gloves…for cleaning the house…what?!
I got home a few hours before the fast. I tucked the small yellow envelop with the two timed release ass pills in the most hidden place in my office shelves, ignoring the KEEP REFRIGERATED sticker, and quickly got on to having the last big meal before the hunger games 5777 started.
The next 18 hours were pretty much clockwork. Lit candles, got to shul, heard the Kol Nidre, prayed a bit more, got home, put kids to bed, went to sleep.
Waking up at 8am, the first thing that entered my mind was a little voice saying,” You know what you gotta do bro! You know what you gotta do!” (Incidentally, this is the same voice and phrase which coaches a person into vomiting after drinking too much alcohol.)
I washed the tips of my fingers from the sleep impurity, walked downstairs to not pour myself a cup of anything, picked up two rubber gloves from the box of gloves, retrieved the golden package, and retired stealthily into the bathroom.
I won’t make a big deal out of this part, mainly because it was easy. I was ready for an ordeal, something like trying to spackle the hole in the wall caused by the doorknob, but things went rather… smoothly.
I wasn’t ready, however, for the lingering feeling of a greased undercarriage, like sliding down a Vaseline bannister nude, and the haunting memory of the KEEP REFRIGERATED sticker, teasing me that I might have missed a crucial step in the process. Maybe it was too soft, and would now be finding its exit, slowly oozing back the way it came in. More greasy sensation. Or perhaps nervous sweat. I wiped with a tissue to confirm that all was good. It was. I dressed up and went to the sofa to do some quiet praying and felt thankful for the hour or so that I had until shul started up. An hour to come to terms with the novel sensations that I had now introduced to my day.
9:45am, left the house for shul. A five minute walk.
The weather was cool, breezy, dry, with rapidly moving puffy clouds. I exited my house in shadow. Mid-block the clouds parted and brilliant, intense sunlight embraced me, dispelling the brisk cool of the morning.
The confidence of getting away with a successful drug experiment suddenly left me as a I felt a sneeze coming on. A deep sneeze. The kind of sneeze that could rip the sins out of the most grievous sinner, with several warm up staccato gasps of air. Each gasp brought on a new and real sense of terror. I’ve never sneezed with a suppository, an unrefrigerated suppository, an unrefrigerated, home-brewed suppository, an unrefrigerated, home-brewed suppository, outside, wearing white, in the middle of a five minute walk to shul. Snap judgment time. Do I let it out like a regular sneeze? Do I hold the outshot of exploding air in the hopes of muffling the effects of the full body convulsion that we all know IS a sneeze. Terror……