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Why I Fast on Tisha B'Av

07/18/2023 03:26:39 PM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin


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There are Two 24 hour Fast Days in Judaism: the White Fast of Yom Kippur and the Black Fast of Tisha B’Av.

Many people fast during Yom Kippur, the White Fast of purification and new beginnings. And many people don’t observe the Black Fast Day of Tisha B’Av that falls this Wednesday night.

I’d like to share why I do practice the fast, and why I believe it matters. 

Judaism is a way of life that focuses on action infused by joy, gratitude, hope.  We begin each day with a sense of wonder at being alive.  We strive to do Mitzvot, to give back, make a difference, help.  We strive to live lives of affirmation and meaning, and to be a source of blessing.  We go for the positive, no matter what.

But we also live in a world of brokenness.  As a people we have endured the full brunt of the evil that humanity is capable of.  Our homeland was laid waste and those of us left were cast into cruel exile, dotted with high points but also marred by scars of loss and horror.  We cannot allow ourselves to forget, but we cannot allow ourselves to be consumed by the darkness We must tell the story, we must relive the memory but it must not cast us down- we are not meant to be a people endlessly grieving.  The remembrance of our own tragedies I believe must fill our hearts with longing, it must refine our empathy, it must temper our souls for the will to do our part in restoring the world each in our own way in our own sphere.  

And so we fast to be filled not just with tears and remembrance but with the faith that as broken as the world is, in the words of Rabbi Nachman, if you believe that it is possible to mar, believe also that it is possible to mend.  

When you take part in the fast, when you read the book of Eicha, lamentations by candlelight, it’s not just an intellectual exercise- you experience it, you live it.  And if that 24 hours can help us, can help me become a little more connected to our history and to the world,  become just a little more patient, a little more empathetic, a little more willing to act and less willing to stand idly by, then I’m ready to go for it.   That's why I fast- because it helps me live it.  

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat of Vision.  The simple meaning of the name is that we read a section of the Haftarah called the Vision of Isaiah- a rebuke and warning to reject hate and greed and injustice and that the world can only be redeemed by justice and righteousness.  

But the early Hasidic master the Maggid of Mezzeritch said that there’s another reason why it’s called Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat of Vision.  Because, he said, on this Shabbat, every Jew is granted a Vision- a vision of the Temple Rebuilt, the world restored.  Not only the Temple in Jerusalem: but the Temple, the connection to the divine  that is in each of us.  

I and others who join me have noticed on Tisha B’Av that just as the fast is about to end, we get a burst of incredible energy, as if as the strength and demands of the body weaken and begin to ebb, the spirit is suddenly kindled.  At moments like that, we know for a certainty that there is more, that we are more than the physical.  On Yom Kippur, we sound the Shofar at that final moment.  On Tisha B’Av we simply share a taste of wine and bread but at both moments we say, L’shana Ha’Ba’ah BiYerushalayim HaBenuya- next year in Rebuilt Jerusalem. Let’s rebuild, one heart at a time. I invite you to join me in the fast and observance of Tisha B’Av for as much as your neshama guides you- Shabbat Shalom- 


Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784