The only thing worse than fasting, is not fasting when the rest of Am Yisrael is fasting.
During the fast day, and for several days leading up to the fast, people, even strangers, wish you an "easy fast," or an "easy and meaningful fast."
There is a national consciousness surrounding fast days.
It is strange to know, in advance, that you are not going to be fasting when everyone else is fasting. It is strange to eat when everyone around you, including your children, are not eating. It is strange to feel the national loss, so strongly, and yet feel separate, different, from the nation.
And then there is the subtext: why am I not fasting? Healthy people fast. Not fasting is a statement. I am not fasting, because I am not healthy. But I do not want to make that statement. I do not even want to acknowledge that statement.
At night, as I lay in my bed, thirsty from the walk, I had to force myself to drink. I was not even supposed to fast a little bit. But I had to force myself. It felt wrong.
The next day, I ate. Privately, in my own home. I felt a little like a thief. I had to remind myself that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.
I knew from Yom Kippur that, though I am allowed to refrain from eating, I must drink at least 3 liters of water during the 25 hour fast. However, on Tisha B'Av, once I am already drinking, there is no merit to not eating.*
On Thursday night, a few days before Tisha B'Av, I attended our local Women's English Shiur (Torah class), given by one of the local Rabbis. In answer to a question I asked, the Rav gave an interesting perspective on the differences between our feelings on Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur:
On Yom Kippur -- who needs to eat? (i.e. we are on such a high spiritual level, who needs food?)
On Tisha B'Av -- who wants to eat? (i.e. we are so miserable, who can stomach food?)
Though I don't fast well, even in the best of circumstances, I totally identified with what he said.
On Tisha B'Av, I ate like I was supposed to. But the food tasted like dust.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,
* According to my Rav, since fasting on Tisha B'Av is not d'orayta (a law ordained in the Torah), the guidelines governing fasting on Tisha B'Av are quite different from those governing Yom Kippur. There is no inyan (concept) of shiurim (amounts) On Yom Kippur, if one eats/drinks less than a specific amount, one is technically still fasting. On Tisha B'Av, once you eat/drink anything, the fast is broken, and there is no merit to refraining from eating/drinking.