Yesterday was the 10th of Tevet in the Hebrew calendar, one of the minor fasts, running from dawn to dusk. (It marks the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem which ended in the destruction of the first Temple.) Most non-Jews know about Yom Kippur being a fast day, but few know that orthodox Jews observe fasts on other occasions throughout the year. (A cynic would say that few Jews know about these fasts either, but that (a) may be an overstatement; and (b) is a post for another time.)
It would be fair to say that in Britain my observance of these other fasts could have been better. I always admired people like my brother who diligently managed full observance, while leading a normal day-to-day life – including a full working day. Since making aliyah, I have been better. Since starting work, there’s been another improvement. The latter change was because some of my work colleagues are like my brother, and working alongside them inspires me to try that little bit harder.
Yesterday, I planned getting up extra early so I could eat before the fast started. But, the planning did not extend to changing the time on the alarm clock, and I did not get off to a good start. However, once at my desk and I was in the swing of things, time passed reasonably quickly. I did catch myself a few times longing for a coffee, some water or a biscuit or two. But just as I was really struggling, I was reminded about mincha. There’s normally at least one mincha service at my workplace, but there’s no Torah scroll. Since there’s a reading from that on fast days, it means mincha is held in one of the local synagogues. This involves a short walk and, combined with the prayers, was just what I needed to recharge my fasting batteries.
I worked on, went home, and broke my fast.
I cannot claim I have a closer connection with the historical event the fast marks, nor with my religion. It was a neutral experience. But, I am glad I made the effort even if I cannot adequately explain why. Maybe – as this Shabbat is the Jahrzeit for my late father, I could sense the oncoming solemnity of that occasion. Whatever, it’s passed. And now it’s almost Shabbat and the fifth anniversary of my dad’s death. Time to wrap my tongue around the tongue-twister Aramaic of the Kaddish. Time to go. Shabbat Shalom!