Fasting Different

I’m quite certain that all of you fondly remember my earlier cantankerous remarks about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Or you don’t.  It was only a few days ago, so I won’t bother linking to it.

Today in my twitter stream, my good friend @ravmatt (who is well worth following) tweeted that before fasting we should read Isaiah 58 and think about why we are fasting.  (He’s a messianic rabbi, so this was probably related to the sermons he’s preparing for Yom Kippur.)

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

The man’s got a point.  (Which isn’t surprising, if you know Matt.)  Maybe in future years we’ll tweak the family tradition a little.

Of course, it’s complicated by the fact that Yom Kippur commands no work at all, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable volunteering somewhere.  But fasting from food always struck me as fairly silly, and anyway a total fast isn’t wise for some of us (Hero gets splitting headaches, my sister N gets pretty sick, etc.)

Once in college I fasted from complaining for a day, which might be a much better avenue to explore.  It actually took quite a bit of discipline.  (Especially because it was the day before a massive group project was due!)  That’s worth looking into.

Any suggestions?

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2 Responses to Fasting Different

  1. Sue says:

    Is the fasting for Yom Kippur a complete fast – no food, no water? If not and a “juice fast” would be permissible, it might be a way to fend off the headaches and whatnot – b/c the juice would keep the blood sugar level high enough to prevent those types of headaches.

    But honestly – a lightbulb went on for me when I re-read that passage of Scripture. What if, in fasting, it wasn’t simply a practice of self-denial and a time devoted to prayer, but if the food that *would have been consumed* during that time frame (day/week/whatever) was given to the poor? Or the equivalent monies – whichever is applicable and appropriate. To care for those who are unable to care for themselves as an outcropping of the act of fasting… and fulfill the intent of the law, instead of just the letter of it?

    I don’t know what that would look like, but it’s got my brain spinning a bit. I fast when I feel led to do so for praying purposes – when someone is very ill or a breakthrough is needed, the Lord will often lead me to fast. But what if – when I’m fasting – I do something with the food/time/money and enrich someone else’s life while my own spiritual life is being enriched?

  2. tradition dictates a complete fast. we’re not bound by tradition and most messianic jews take water and/or juice during their fast, depending on personal needs and convictions. Hero gets headaches even with juice (including the time we smuggled a big bottle of juice into the service so he could keep up on it) so he tends to do a Daniel fast of some sort. I don’t remember what my sister does. I don’t mind fasting from food, but it makes me grumpy to be doing what is conventional just because it is conventional, and that rather defeats the purpose.

    Incorporating that sort of charity is a very good idea – for all I know, it’s traditional already in some places. I might even suggest that the congregation put out a collection box for that purpose….it would be an interesting experiment at least.

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