Fasts and Feasts

This past Tuesday was a fast day in the Jewish calendar, a fact that probably never came across your radar screen. Truthfully, even most Jews were unaware of it, as only the relatively small percentage of Jews who observe their faith as their ancestors did make note of the day. 

While there are two major fast days during the year (Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av) on which food and drink are prohibited for 25 hours, there are also four other fast days on which eating and drinking are prohibited only from just before sunrise until soon after sunset.  While certain special prayers are added on these days, we otherwise function as normal; going to work for instance.

This particular fast last Tuesday, which falls on the tenth day of the Jewish month of Tevet, commemorates a number of tragic events in Jewish history. Among these is the translation of the Torah into Greek by order of King Ptolemy of Egypt, many centuries ago. This was the first time that people could access the Torah without coming in touch with the ancient Jewish wisdom that permeates it. Like all the minor fast days, focusing on the historical events misses the point. These are days of mourning because we still suffer from these occurrences. If you have ever heard Scripture misquoted or selectively quoted in support of evil, you understand that we are still afflicted by King Ptolemy’s forced translation.

Personally, I find an interesting side effect to these days. I am generally a breakfast person. When I skip breakfast and get straight to work on these minor fast days, my initial reaction is how much my productivity has increased. Not eating breakfast goes hand in hand with not reading the newspaper (or filling in its crossword puzzle) and I skip my regular morning exercise class too. My early morning work accomplishments multiply.  When I miss lunch as well, I am really on a roll.

However, this increased output doesn’t last. By mid-afternoon I am lagging and my concentration is diminishing. My energy runs out and I rarely accomplish much for the rest of the day, negating whatever extra yield the morning hours provided.

Isn’t this true in other parts of our lives? With Chanukah just passed and Christmas almost here, this is a time of year when most of us see more of families and friends than usual. Like my breakfast routine, this leaves less time for us to work and take care of our obligations. The rest of the year, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that relationships are optional and we can save focusing on them for another day.  While my flagging energy levels this past Tuesday will hit most people who skip meals, the consequences of ignoring others isn’t as quickly apparent. We can actually go months without speaking to and spending meaningful time with the important people in our lives while our confused brains congratulate us on how efficiently we’re operating. But while a hot drink, small supper and good night’s sleep quickly bring me up to speed after a fast day, the damage that isolation causes is far harder to fix.

Treasure this time and use some of it to plan for more connection with the people you already love. Figure out how to leave time and room to meet and nurture contact with those you do not know yet but whose presence will enrich your life. Wishing my Christian readers a merry Christmas filled with precious moments.

20 thoughts on “Fasts and Feasts”

  1. Susan,
    Thank you for this muse. I am a new ‘intermittent faster’ and have found that it brings me great “calmness” and clarity. I realize it has been practiced for centuries mostly for religious reasons but it can be a valuable lifestyle practice that can help a person “heal” in so many ways. Also, I was so touched at the end with your simple “shout out” to us Christians. I love that you acknowledge and respect our traditions and beliefs as I do yours. Why oh why can’t the world embrace the same sentiment??!! It’s so easy!
    Happy Chanukah!

    1. Thank you, Shaun. I have to admit that I don’t think I would fast if it wasn’t a religious obligation, even though I know many do for other reasons.

      Just like men are often afraid to hold a door for a woman now, a courtesy that used to be normal, people are afraid that they will get their heads bitten off for saying Merry Christmas. BTW – the greetings don’t have to be reciprocal. Though sometimes Christmas falls out on Hanukah, this year Hanukah ended over a week ago. One can just answer ‘thank-you’ when given a holiday blessing. Just like when someone wishes you ‘Happy Birthday’, it sometimes just isn’t the correct time to say ‘Happy Birthday’ back.

  2. Always everyday and everyperson observations, Susan. Once in awhile I sit in the car and use the drive-through at my coffee shop but I finally realized the reason I like going in is for the small but not inconsequential connection with others. Another opportunity to offer a smile and quick joke with the baristas and hello to fellow customers. Connection diminishes isolation and helps make the family of God a little more hospitable. Blessings to the growing Lapin family!

    1. So true, Kristin, that going into a coffee shop is different from using the drive-through. It is so easy to isolate ourselves these days. Thanks for your blessings and returning them to you.

  3. As time goes by and as I grow older, my appreciation of time spent with loved ones increases but I do get busy so thank you for the little reminder to keep making time to connect.

  4. Be assured, your words are being read. If I don’t have time to read them when they first arrive, I save until I do.

    As Lisa mentioned, I too would like to read more about the affects the translations have had. For those of us that don’t read Hebrew, what translation do you find most accurate?

    1. Thank you, Susan. A large part of the problem is that even the best translation cannot capture the Oral Tradition that has accompanied the Written Bible since Moses’ time. That is what my husband and I call ‘ancient Jewish wisdom’. If you have listened to any of the Genesis Journeys Set audio CDs, you’ll have a very good glimpse into what we mean.
      A quick example is that the words “an eye for an eye” might more accurately be translated as “an eye under an eye” but never, ever in Jewish history has anyone’s eye been removed for injuring someone else’s. The ancient Jewish wisdom that flows from the Hebrew letters of the word “under” leads us to see that this refers to monetary compensation and that is how it has been taught since Moses first gave this law. So, even a better translation doesn’t stop misunderstandings.

  5. Thank you for this message. The enemy of our soul loves nothing more than distracting us from the Lord and those he loves. We have been put here for a reason and that reason is that the will of God be done in our lives, to share his will and love with others. I have found myself referring more and more to concordances for the meaning of words, especially when reading the old testament and I reference Jewish writings as well. They provide much needed context and depth! God bless you and Rabbi.

    1. Randy, there is more depth in Scripture than any of us can access in a lifetime, but it is a wonderful quest to absorb as much of it as we can.

  6. I appreciate the way you take observances from one area of everyday life and apply them to other areas of life. Many people cannot do that.

    1. It’s funny you say that, Michelle, because this morning I was thinking how I must tell a certain blogger I read who does exactly that how much I appreciate that talent of hers.

  7. Susan,
    I love your connection between fasting and connecting with people in our lives. For me, fasting reminds me of my vulnerability and dependence on God. It also helps me see the suffering of those that are physically or spiritually hungry and thirsty. We all need constant spiritual and physical nourishment.
    Happy Chanukah to all our Jewish friends and Merry Christmas to all our Christian friends!! Love you all!

    1. It is amazing how quickly we react to a lack of food and water, isn’t it, Pablo? Fasting certainly helps us not take our blessings for granted, and as you say, to realize that others aren’t as fortunate as we are.

  8. Thank you for such profound insights.

    Fasting from food is part of my spiritual and physical regime for years, so I’m quite aware of the benefits and would appreciate further Jewish wisdom on the subject.

    I also appreciate knowing more about the consequences of having the Torah translating into Greek There seems to be a great misunderstanding as to why the Jews were clashing with the Greeks. Many people, mostly Christians, think that studying the Greek translation would be far more relevant than Hebrew. As if the King James bible wasn’t enough to deal with.

    Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, yet as you have profoundly stated, there are often severe issues with the translation. Thank you again.

    1. There is a very special relationship between Jewish and ancient Greek cultures, Lisa. They have clashed but also complemented each other for centuries. My husband speaks about this on our Festival of Light CD and he has also written about it in various Thought Tools.

  9. Sondria McWilliams

    Everything you shared was for me, I had been making plans to connect with family but was a little hesitant because of the cost. I am now very excited to do what I know God put on my heart. I also practice fasting which helps me to be sensitive to His voice.

    1. I wish you a wonderful holiday with your family, Sondria. Without encouraging irresponsibility, we can always make more money but we can’t make more time.

  10. Thank you so much for your musings via email. I so appreciate reading (hearing) the thoughts you both share. You are our special treasures!

    1. Lee, I want to thank you for commenting. It makes it so much easier to write when we know that people are reading and enjoying our words.

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