Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fasting for?

Previously I have explored the concept of tefilla and fasting and wanted to take a different angle today.  Yesterday was the Fast of Esther which leads many people to associate the purpose of the fast to be united at least symbolically with Esther's three day fast before she enters the King's chamber to make her plea for her people (chapter 4).  This is not the case as even wikipedia notes:

The 13th of Adar was a fast day for the warriors while going out to battle, as it is believed to have been customary to fast during the battle in order to gain divine favor.

Rather than explore why some educators avoid emphasizing discussions of power and war with modern audiences, I find it worth noting that ancient Jewish warriors seriously davened to gain favor in their wars even to the point of going out to war in a state of fast - I have a hard time just going to work without eating the whole day...

There is a serious disconnect (beyond the mind/body) between our prayers and actions highlighting how far the concept of fasting is falling out of favor, especially on 'minor' fast days.  Mainstream Jewry (and by that I really mean a majority in number) knows about the big one - Yom Kippur - and might be familair with Tisha B'Av, but the minor ones are really seen as minor in significance (and not in degree of fasting).  There are some people even ask about the relevance to fast on Tisha B'av if there is a State of Israel.  In my humble opinion, this is partly because of a change in traditional  ideology (if there ever was unified ideology), a lacking in appreciation for Jewish literacy/history, and the fact that fasting is seen as an 'outdated' practice.  As educators, I think we need to address this issue and its relevance to how we build an identity around tefilla and spiritual growth.

Do your students seem more focused or less focused in tefilla on a fast day?

Do you discuss with your students how to rise above the hunger pangs to better strive to connect?  What techniques do you use?

Have you had a voluntary fast day in your school for a special occasion?  How was the reaction by the student body? Was that tefilla unique?

1 comment:

  1. I think it is fascinating that the "minor" holidays like Purim and Chanukah are the one's that really get majot play in your mainstream Jewish world... but the major ones don't...