Shackles of Habit

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  Two nights ago, B stayed home with the boys so I could go to Temple.  Usually, I sit with B’s family (aunt, uncle, and grandmother), but when I got there, I couldn’t see whether they were in their usual spot.  It was also so packed that I didn’t even know if there was an open seat by them.  I wound up sitting in the back all by myself.  It wasn’t bad, though, because I had some time to pray and think.

I was thinking about my A Self Divided post when I came upon the following line in my prayer book:

Will You open our prisons
Release from us shackles of habit?

Suddenly, something occurred to me.  My "religious side" (as I put it in my last post) wasn’t clinging to the six hour rule over valid religious arguments, but out of habit.  I have been following that rule for about two decades and changing something that you’ve done for that long, it’s hard to change.

Now, I value change.  I happen to think that it isn’t "flip floping" when a politician changes his position provided he does so based on new information.  I also think that religions need to be able to change as the world changes.  In my opinion, many of the reasons behind certain religious rules no longer apply in today’s world and should be done away with.  Yet, how could I expect my religion to change if I was unwilling to change?  Unfortunately, I (like many people) often find it hard to change.  I cling to old practices far longer than I should.


Case in point: When I was in college, I decided to grow a beard.  It was ugly, didn’t match the rest of my hair for some odd reason, and made me look over 30 years old.  All my friends were candid about how awful it made me look and tried to get me to shave, but I persisted.  Finally, I decided to shave it off.  Good thing, too.  B hates facial hair!

When I first began following the 6 hour rule, I was in Hebrew School.  I was told that it took 6 hours for meat to digest in your stomach and that was the reason for the wait.  However, when I recently looked into reasons for waiting between eating milk and meat, nothing mentioned digestive durations.  So I really shouldn’t hold onto 6 hours simply because "that’s the way I always did it."

This doesn’t mean that I’m about to ditch all of my religious beliefs.  I still believe in many of them.  This particular one, though, had been vexing me for some time.  Deep down, I knew that I should move to waiting 3 hours, but I was afraid to change.  I can’t say that I’m entirely fearless now, but I’m willing to make the change and see how things go.

Habit can be a strong force to overcome.  Are there any things that you do completely out of habit?