Fasting & Tisha B’Av

My daughter-in-law Karen sent me this photo early this morning-0716130735a

with this caption: Crab walk with abba—Going to be a LONG fast for abba with all this exercise ha ha”

Abba is Hebrew for father, which my grandchildren call their dads, my sons.

Here’s our email exchange:

“Fast? What fast?”

“It’s Tisha B’Av,  one of the 2 major fasts (on par with Yom Kippur). I’m fasting too.”

“You’re pregnant? You can’t fast.”

“Pregnant women are required to fast too unless they go into labor or sick.”

“In this heat?”

“We’re staying in ac.”

“Can you at least drink water?”

“No food or water. If I start to feel ill then our rabbi said to eat/drink little amounts (and break fast completely if  I go into labor).”

Relieved that they’ll stay cool though worried about them fasting—they’ve both skinny and she’s so close to delivery date– I did some reading about this holiday.

Tisha B’Av honors the date when the first and second Temples were destroyed in Jerusalem thousands of years ago and the subsequent exile and persecution of Jews throughout other periods in history.

The commemoration lasts three weeks, beginning this year June 25, and ends with a fast that began  last night and ends at sundown today. It’s considered the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

Later in the morning, my cousin David posted on Facebook:

“Not much of a fan of organized religion, but I do like history and tradition. Today I am fasting (so far, anyway) because it is Tisha B’Av. A day dedicated to memory of massacres and destruction of Jerusalem 2000 years, and a good time to think of other slaughters and personal losses.  

Most of the major religions require a fast period. 

I get it. I just can’t do it. I fasted in college on Yom Kippur a couple of times.  I have to fast before I get blood work or before any surgical procedure.  I guess I don’t connect spiritually and just get too hungry.  And if I’m hungry, I’m very grouchy.

Yet if fasting helps us reflect about history and ourselves, perhaps more should try it.

As my cousin wrote: “A contemplation of the horrors of history (and of current horrors, of course) makes one question the wisdom and sanity of our species.”

Food for thought. Or in this case, thought for fast.

I wish all those observing an easy fast.

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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24 Responses to Fasting & Tisha B’Av

  1. Great post Lisa, I am worried too about your daughter-in-law! Jess didn’t fast when she was pregnant during Yom Kippur and she always does – but I told her now she can use her dad’s excuse. They both have to save lives, the ultimate pass! Also I guess Reform is Jewish light. Still I think she should be drinking water and ask her doc maybe? Oh the problems of what to say and when to say it in our new roles as MILs 🙂

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  2. ShimonZ says:

    I just finished my fast now. It’s night in Jerusalem now. Very different from Yom Kippur. That fast doesn’t really keep the day from being one of the most beautiful in the year for most of the people I know. And by the end of the day, I usually am in a state of great elation and happiness. This day is definitely a sad one.

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  3. Great post! I for one, cannot fast – it is not in the best interest of anyone if I even attempt as I take your mere grouchy to ositively apoplectic! Can’t one observe and pay homage in a different more civil manner? Light a candle? Go on a hiking vigil? Bake a cake…oh. Maybe not THAT – but it is the best way to bring people together…

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  4. OmaOrBubby says:

    Lisa, as always I enjoyed this post. Your family seems so close and you are a wonderfully accepting mil. Love that! I happened to be fasting today and having a rather “easy” time for a change because the past few weeks I’ve been cutting down on sugar and carbs. So my body is detoxed kind of. I fasted when when nursing and on Tisha B’av, the rabbi told me I could drink a tiny bit every 6 minutes. because I was so worried about my baby and that I would dry up). HAnyway, enjoy the rest of the summer. Before we know it, it will be Rosh hashana, yikes! Everything is so early this year! I

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  5. I remember as a child not being able to eat fish on Fridays. And on Sunday — no food or water before mass. The significance of why not was lost on me — but the ritual of fasting was something I really found uplifting because it did connect me to tradition — and ritual, which even today, I still find reassuring and comforting.

    The benefits of fasting when pregnant though…. now that’s harder to digest. NOt sure if it’s worth risking.

    ANd I agree — it’s a lovely post.

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  6. david burg says:

    Honored to be included in your sweet blog post. I think fast days and mourning holidays are totally against the grain of American culture. And Lisa, our branch of American Jewry certainly has done its best to become Americanized. I am sorry for all we have lost in that, and though I am not on a level with your sons, I am glad for their counterbalance to the prevailing winds. There are so many great Jewish holidays we moderns have not usually even heard of, like Simchas Torah and Shavuos. The only solemn American holidays I can think of are Memorial Day and Veterans day. Now the former is almost exclusively a 3 day weekend and start to summer, the latter barely celebrated. Perhaps this is the triumph of consumer culture and its hand maiden, shallow optimism? If Hallmark could sell Tisha B’Av cards maybe we would all know about it. It was not always so. Check out the incredible painting “Memorial Day” by Rockwell Kent. Captures an older America. Finally, I confess that sad holidays have a lot more resonance for me since our own tragic loss.

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    • Thanks, David. I appreciate how thoughtful you are in your approach. There are so many Jewish holidays compared to the American ones and thankfully, they haven’t become 3 day shopping weekends. I’m always thinking of you and Jean.

      On Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 3:49 PM, cyclingrandma

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  7. Nathan says:

    Great post! Tisha B’Av is definitely one of the most meaningful days for me on the Jewish Calendar, and of course remember what Napoleon said when he visited a synagogue on Tisha B’Av “I people with a past like that also has a future!” http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=4993

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  8. Keep strong and try not to worry Lisa, I am sure your daughter in law will be fine for one day. I love the idea of this tradition and fasting is a spiritual experience for sure, although I’ve only done it once myself.

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  9. I used to fast, but when I was pregnant my grandmother-in-law told me not to fast during that time. I more than happily took her advice.

    The significance of fasting is lost on me. I never felt the exuberance at the end of the day: just a terrible headache. But good for anyone who finds the experience worthwhile…

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  10. Drjcwash says:

    Thanks Lisa. Great history lesson. It has been a sad time for the past few days. It is true that if you know your past history, you are stronger and have a frame of reference for your future.

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  11. My daughter called me from Israel, as she was ending her fast… sounds brutal: no food or water for 24 hours! But yes, meaningful to those who participate.

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  12. adinparadise says:

    I really admire those who have the tenacity to observe such traditions. I’m sure that 24 hours without food isn’t a great hardship , as long as one isn’t doing strenuous activity. I definitely couldn’t go without water though. I wish your daughter-in-law well, Lisa. That’s a really fun pic. 🙂

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  13. Letty Sue Albert says:

    I was interested to learn that there really is a “Tisha B’av”. As a child, whenever we asked when some much desired thing would happen, my Mother’s response would be, “erov Tisha B’av”, (on the eve of Tisha B’av), which more accurately meant, probably never or some unknown time in the distant future. When queried, she herself had no idea what “Tisha B’av” was (the spelling is yours), but said that her mother always used that expression. The Arabs say, “when the apricots ripen”. After all these years, was pleased to know that it is a definitive moment in time!!
    Letty Sue Albert

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    • Sweet! I remember your mother always saying (and I can’t spell it) “kinnorrah, shiksas” when talking about Naomi and me– at that time I think many Jews considered it a blessing if your kid didn’t look “Jewish.” Changing times… hope all well.

      On Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 8:32 AM, cyclingrandma

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