A Self-Hating Jew: The High Holidays Bring it Out in Me

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When the High Holidays roll around, I invariably catch myself falling into a deep chasm of self-loathing. It’s a time to take stock of your life, to think about what you’ve done in the past year, who you’ve wronged—if this makes you feel good about yourself, you must not be trying very hard. Personally, I’ve been pretty rotten, and trying to sort out who I owe an apology to, and what I can try to improve on this year, feels like an enormous task. When we get to
Unetaneh Tokef
, the prayer with the famous line, “Who by fire and who by water” all I can think is, “I’d rather water, but I guess I don’t get a choice.”

The week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the worst. I earnestly try to figure out how I can be better in the future year, I make promises to myself, and plan, but even while I do it, I’m thinking about those annoying people who show up at the gym on January 1st, hung over but determined to work out five days a week in 2010. Those of us who are long-time members know they’ll make it three weeks, tops, and we’re annoyed that they’re taking up the treadmills with the best view of the TVs. I feel like those fairweather fitness buffs as I make a list of ways I want to change in the new year. There’s just no way that I can live up to what I know I should be doing.



The self-loathing is not limited to my behavior. The New Year also offers a plethora of opportunities for me to hate my body. Two days of Rosh Hashanah mean two days of dressing up in uncomfortable clothes to sit in a room full of people who are almost all significantly more attractive than me. I try to focus on the contents of the mahzor, but it’s almost impossible not to notice all of the pencil skirts and kitty heels and various dresses in size 6 that are gracing every row of the service.

When I was a teenager everyone was always saying that you have to love yourself before anyone else will love you, and as an adult I would just like to call bullshit. I have a boyfriend who is madly in love with me, despite my High Holiday fueled season of self-disgust. But I catch myself feeling smug about having an awesome boyfriend, and then I hate myself for the smugness.

Posted on September 17, 2010

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