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Monday, August 11, 2008

Tisha B'Av -- Part II -- Fasting, or Not

I don't fast well. By mid day, I have a terrible migraine headache, and I am quite miserable by the end of the day. I spend the last few hours in bed, and I do not have patience to help or take care of anyone. Fasting does not help me to be more spiritual.

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.


Leora said...

I don't know if it helps, but I read two posts of young bloggers who couldn't fast for health reasons. Yeah, that probably doesn't help.

It's good you took care of yourself. And it's good you can talk about the "wish" to fast.

Take care.

Sarah said...

I can totally relate to what you said about "sneaking" eating when the rest of the country (and one of my children) is fasting. About the issue of eating at all on Tiaha B'av, my Rav told me this way: since my meds require food in my stomach (3X/day), and that is the only reason I need to eat at all, eat only for the sake of the meds, drink only for the sake of drinking down the meds, but relate to it as fasting. Yom Kippur is the shiurim fast, and is related to differently, like you said.
I don't know what my p'sak will be this YK; I call my Rav for each approaching fast, it has been different each time, depending on my changing circumstances.

Anonymous said...

There are healthy people who don't fast - me for example. I am breastfeeding and thus am not supposed to fast on Tisha Bav.
I also had the experience of drinking while my kids fasted so I can relate.
Feel good!

Baila said...

Ironic. Those of us fasting wish we weren't (at least I did), but you wished you were because of your circumstances.

Once again goes to show us to count our blessings....

I hope you are feeling great today!

RivkA with a capital A said...

Leora -- I davka would be interested in reading those blog posts. Please send me the links (either here in the comments or directly to my email) -- Thanks.

skash & Ariella -- interesting how very different every Rav/psak is.

skash -- I don't know what my Rav would say in your s.tuation.

Ariella -- When I was nursing, I still had to fast on Tisha B'Av, (though not on the other "minor" fast days: Tzom Gedalia, Asarah B'Tevet, 17 B'Tamuz)

I didn't fast when my son was born, but it was less than one week after childbirth (Tisha B'Av was four days after I gave birth, via cesarean!) -- Halachikally, during that period, a mother is considered b'sakanah (in danger), even if childbirth is natural; Halachikally, she is not "healthy." (though it's hard for us to relate to it, for thousands of years childbirth was life-threatening)

It's true that there can be other reasons not to fast. But most people who do not fast, do not fast due to health related issues.

Baila -- it is ironic. I always say: every situation has its advantages and disadvantages.

This Tisha B'Av, I certainly felt physically better than I have in previous years, when I was fasting. Since I was feeling ok, I could really focus on the meaning of the day, which made me lose my appetite....

Anonymous said...

I showed this to my son and he said that he "agrees 110% - it's Mamash Like that exactly!!"

thank you for your postings from the heart - they express things so clearly for the rest of us!

RivkA with a capital A said...

anon -- wow. Thank you for sharing.

I wish your son good health.

Batya said...

Lots of my friends are no longer allowed to fast.

RivkA with a capital A said...

muse -- I also have several friends who cannot fast for one reason or another. It is helpful to know that I am not the only one. But it is still tough.