A Day Without Coffee: How Rabbi Megan Preps – Physically and Spiritually – For the High Holidays

I am a coffee addict. Every morning I make my first cup as I prepare breakfast for my kids. I drink it as I walk them to pre-school, or on the train, or whenever I can sneak in a sip between applying sunscreen and wrestling my toddler into her shoes.  My second cup comes around 11 am, either during an in-person meeting at a coffee shop, or from the cold brew tap at our We Work, or from the Keurig when I work from home. 

Around two or three pm I feel a need for cup number three and I find it wherever I am at that time.  On weekends sometimes I cut down to two cups, but since having kids, more days than not I have three cups of coffee every single day, ~350 days a year. But in a week or so this will all change.  In preparation for Yom Kippur, in addition to the spiritual work of self-reflection, I will physically prepare myself for 25 hours free of caffeine. After many years of practice and honing my craft, here is my foolproof method.

I begin by dropping my second morning cup the Saturday before Rosh Hashana. For about a week I become a two cup a day person — morning and early afternoon (the afternoon cup will likely move a bit earlier in the day).  And then the Saturday before Yom Kippur, I cut out the afternoon cup. I do my best to slowly inch my morning cup later and later in the morning, all in preparation for that inevitable day of Yom Kippur, when I abstain from coffee entirely.

There are other ways to approach this particular preparation ritual.Some people will cut to half-caf a few days before Yom Kippur, but not me,. I may have a decaf cup if one cup really isn’t meeting my ritual needs, or a cup of tea. I talked to a friend who begins her caffeine weaning at the start of Elul, the month before Rosh Hashana, and she cuts all coffee out during the month. A month of sadness to make one day easier? That is just not worth it to me! Plus, Yom Kippur is supposed to hurt a bit – we are supposed to beat our chests and afflict ourselves, and yes, the caffeine headache is part of the affliction. But if I am totally destroyed, I won’t be able to atone and focus, and that isn’t the point either. 

The act of coffee weaning is proof that the  High Holidays are not a two or three day event. We are supposed to begin spiritual preparation at the start of Elul, when traditional communities begin to blow the shofar. As we learn from Maimonides, the shofar is supposed to call to us: “Awake, awake, you sleepers from your sleep; examine your deeds, return in repentance, remember your Creator; those of you who forget the truth and go astray the whole year in vanity and emptiness that neither profits nor saves, look to your souls”. How better to awaken than coffee, or realizing we need to find ways to be awake that aren’t just about coffee?

While Yom Kippur is in many ways a somber day of contemplative prayer, the end of it is meant to be filled with joy. We are taught that at Neilah, the concluding service of Yom Kippur, the gates of heaven close. We feel a weight lifted, we believe we have been forgiven, we have a fresh slate and we can try again to be the people we strive to be. The next morning, I enjoy the best cup of coffee of the whole year. Guilt free, enjoyable, delicious. I sometimes have four cups that day, just to truly relish the ritual of returning to awakeness!

We hope this year you will choose to spend some of your fall holidays with us. Check out our offerings below, leading up to Rosh Hashanah and all the way through the harvest holiday of Sukkot, and pick one or a few to try out! We wish you a shana tova, a Happy New Year, from all of us at Tribe 12!


Holiday Events This Fall

 Pre-Rosh Hashanah Cocktails with a Conscience 

Tribe 12 Rosh Hashanah Dinner

Moon Circle Days of Awe: Tashlich at The River 

Break-fast with Grad Network

Dinner in The Sukkah 

Havdalah and Music in The Sukkah 


Shemini Atzeret Feminist Seder 






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