Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that a little over a week ago was the intense and most important Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.  You probably also know that it’s customary to fast, i.e., no eating or drinking for 25 hours, so that we focus entirely on prayer and self-reflection.

What may not be known to all is that Jews aren’t permitted to anoint themselves either.  In other words, no perfume, moisturizer, make-up, showers, even brushing teeth!  Being that I was brought up quite religious, I am still slavish to these rules (some habits die-hard I guess). Oh, sex is out too, btw.

What struck me as the most painful during this holiday wasn’t the lack of food or drink.  I actually felt pretty good physically.

It was that I felt and looked gross.

Let me be clear.  It’s not like I take a ton of time putting my “face on” or coiffing my hair “just so” every morning.  But I do spend a wee bit of effort beautifying.  I try to walk out of the house looking and smelling attractive and put together.

So being deprived of that ritual and the subsequent effect of it REALLY bothered me.

But there’s a lesson here.  Why should beautification be prohibited? Because it is part of those everyday activities, like food and water, that are meant to be enjoyed and supposed to fuel us to take on the day.   They make us feel alive. And, as this is a day of immense focus on prayer, we can’t be distracted by our everyday lives and those things/activities that make us feel like we’re a part of the dynamic world around us.  What this prohibition against beautification reveals is that it is in the same camp as food and drink, that is, it is one of those things that is necessary to make us feel whole, happy, and engaged in life.  Beautification is powerful, enjoyable and charges us up.

I ended Yom Kippur feeling more renewed and charged for the year ahead thanks to a lot of deep thinking and prayer.  But there’s nothing like deprivation to remind you of the joy of everyday activities.  And believe me, taking a shower and putting on some moisturizer after the day was over was pretty physically and spiritually uplifting too!

Comment or tweet me your thoughts @beautyskew

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