I really dislike fasting. I like my morning cup of coffee. I enjoy sitting together with a family member or friend to share a meal. I find meaning in the breakfast that always follows morning minyan. I appreciate how “breaking bread” with another can deepen relationships and ease discussion.
But this past Tuesday, there was no minyan breakfast. There were no morning cups of coffee or meals with someone I care about. It was the 17th of Tammuz: a day in which we commemorate the breach of the walls of Jerusalem 2000 years ago by fasting and exhibiting outward signs of mourning. On that day we also began the three week countdown to Tisha B’Av, the day in which we commemorate the destructions of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem. Tisha B’Av then gives way to the seven weeks of consolation, of healing, that culminates in Rosh Hashanah. Yes, we are only ten weeks away from the High Holidays.
Yet, fasts are not meant to be enjoyed. They are meant to provide insight and to seek healing. A fast reminds an individual to “Know before Whom you stand” (BT B’rachot 28b). That is to say, God is the ultimate authority and the only “One” who is actually in control. So, in fasting this year, I was mindful of our Shaarey Zedek community and of the Land of Israel; I was mindful of those who sadly fast every day, too impoverished to eat or to eat well. I was mindful of those sick at home or in the hospital. I grew ever more mindful of how blessed I truly am–how blessed we all truly are, each and every day. Through self-deprivation, I was reminded of how much I truly have.
But if all such a fast does is create mindfulness, then this is not the type of fast God seeks (Isaiah 58:5). A fast must lead to action. So, as we come out of the 17th of Tammuz, whether you fasted or not, I call upon you to join me in action. Let us give thanks to all those who provide us with blessings in our lives, including our loved ones and God. Let us continue to visit those in the hospitals and reach out to those who are ill at home. This obligation, by the way, falls not just on clergy but on us all, and the synagogue has a group of individuals committed to providing such “sunshine” to those in need. Call the synagogue to get involved. We must begin to seek healing for our congregation, by attending Shabbat and minyan services; joining in learning, Tikkun Olam or social programming; and by using language that builds up rather than tears down. Let us provide food to the hungry, and I invite you to join me in supporting Yad Ezra this week. And let us also reach out to the State of Israel, so desperately in need of our prayers and support. Please continue reading for the link to participate in the Israel Emergency campaign.
Mindfullness matters and words are important, but actions matter most of all. Let us together work to repair the brokenness that surrounds us.
Rebecca, Caleb and Ayal join me in wishing you Shabbat shalom.
-Rabbi Aaron Starr