My Worst Yom Kippur

Thank G-d my Yom Kippur was good this year – I drank enough the day before so that I didn’t get a headache, and the davening (prayers) were meaninful for me. For some reason, though, as I was resting during the break I suddenly remembered a Yom Kippur a long time ago which was definitely my worst.

 18 years ago my first son was just a few months old. This was the first Yom Kippur that I did not go to synagogue at all. Even before I became observant I always went to the synagogue on Rosh Hashana, and I fasted on Yom Kippur, so having to stay home with an infant was a very new experience. It was also a challenge to both nurse him and fast (I guess this was my first opportunity to play the martyr!).

Westbankpapa came home from shul to check on me during the break. I felt ok, so he went back to shul (synagogue).

I put the baby down to sleep, and I was about to say my own prayers, when I heard a strange sound. We had a box of tissues on the ledge of the window in the bathroom, and it sounded like it fell down. The puzzling thing was was that it was a still day, with no wind. I decided to go see what happened.

I opened the bathroom door, and what did I see but a guy half in and half out of the window. My first gut reaction was complete anger. I screamed at him to “get out of here!” – and, to my great relief, he did! Our apartment was on the second floor, and he had climbed up a drain pipe to try to break in.  We lived in a relatively religious neighborhood in Washington Heights, and I guess the guy thought that most Jews would be in shul for Yom Kippur.

What he didn’t know was that women with children too young to walk themselves would be at home. There is a body of laws regarding the Sabbath and Holidays that relate to what you can and cannot do. One of the prohibitions is called “carrying” – basically taking something from a private domain into a public one. In many religious neighborhoods (and practically everywhere in Israel) the local Rabbis have a way to bypass this law, by creating what is called an “eruv”. This type of fence, for want of a better word, symbolically creates a large area into a private domain – so that people can take things from their homes to the synagogue (primarily prayerbooks and children). There are some areas that cannot be “enclosed” in this way – and northern Manhattan, where I lived, is one of them.

After chasing him away I had a moment of pure terror – thinking that he may have done something to my baby. (Completely irrational, of course, because the baby was in another room. Why would he be climbing through the bathroom window if he had been in the bedroom?) I ran into the bedroom to check to see if he was ok, and he was sleeping (like a baby!)

I then had the longest two hours of my life. I was terrified that the guy would come back, and I wanted to take my baby and go to where my husband was, but at the same time I knew that I was not allowed to go out of the building. In cases of danger to one’s life, you may do whatever you need to do, even if it is the Sabbath, to protect yourself or another person. At this point, though, there was no clear danger.

I told myself that if I heard so much as a peep I would run out – Yom Kippur or no Yom Kippur, but that didn’t happen. I just sat there, terrified, wishing that I lived in Israel already. 

It took us another year and a half to make the move, but I think that scary Yom Kippur helped us along.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rafi G
    Sep 25, 2007 @ 06:59:34

    that is a frightening story!

  2. Rafi G
    Sep 25, 2007 @ 07:00:25

    and also a good reason to keep a baseball bat in the house!

  3. Jack
    Sep 25, 2007 @ 16:33:39

    That is a heck of a story.

  4. mother in israel
    Sep 28, 2007 @ 11:33:46

    Scary!! (Maybe we will see you at a wedding of a bachura from your yishuv next Tuesday?)

  5. westbankmama
    Sep 29, 2007 @ 21:22:32

    Rafi – hmmm, I haven’t seen a baseball bat in a long time….

    Jack – glad you liked it

    mother – no, I am not invited to this particular wedding…

  6. RR
    Sep 30, 2007 @ 13:16:59

    I see why that would be your worst Yom Kippur- how scary! Glad you scared him off.

  7. aliyah06
    Sep 30, 2007 @ 17:16:36

    This also means we have boys who are almost the same age!

    I’m so grateful that nothing happened to you or your baby…..I was a prosecutor for many years and Mike was a cop–we saw waayyy too much of this stuff, sometimes with tragic results. HaKodesh Baruch Hu was watching out for you!

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