Have you ever fasted? Have you ever made it a habit in your life? The only fasting I’ve truly experienced was when I was not doing it alone. I ‘fasted’ during that popular youth group activity, The 30 Hour Famine, in high school. and as soon as it was done I stuffed myself with pizza and pop. Yeah. Not exactly the ideal fasting experience. I also boasted about it, complaining about how hungry I was and how exhausted I felt because I was doing this great thing for hunger awareness. I was more aware of my hunger than I was about why we are supposed to fast in the first place.
I will also admit that my first attempt at fasting during Yom Kippur failed miserably. First of all because I forgot I was supposed to fast. Second of all because I thought that once I screwed up, that was the end of it. So I quickly justified my indulgence and neglect of the Torah since I had not prepared my body for the fast and so on and so forth. Justifications come so easily to me. It’s truly disappointing.
So, for what reasons have you fasted? What was it like for you? Where do you see an example of that fasting in the Scriptures? What do you think fasting accomplishes?
1 Shout out loud! Don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a shofar! Proclaim to my people what rebels they are, to the house of Ya’akov their sins. 2 “Oh yes, they seek me day after day and [claim to] delight in knowing my ways. As if they were an upright nation that had not abandoned the rulings of their God, they ask me for just rulings and [claim] to take pleasure in closeness to God, 3 [asking,] ‘Why should we fast, if you don’t see? Why mortify ourselves, if you don’t notice?’ “Here is my answer: when you fast, you go about doing whatever you like, while keeping your laborers hard at work.
4 Your fasts lead to quarreling and fighting, to lashing out with violent blows. On a day like today, fasting like yours will not make your voice heard on high. 5 “Is this the sort of fast I want, a day when a person mortifies himself? Is the object to hang your head like a reed and spread sackcloth and ashes under yourself? Is this what you call a fast, a day that pleases ADONAI? 6 “Here is the sort of fast I want – releasing those unjustly bound, untying the thongs of the yoke, letting the oppressed go free, breaking every yoke, 7 sharing your food with the hungry, taking the homeless poor into your house, clothing the naked when you see them, fulfilling your duty to your kinsmen!”
8 Then your light will burst forth like the morning, your new skin will quickly grow over your wound; your righteousness will precede you, and ADONAI’s glory will follow you. 9 Then you will call, and ADONAI will answer; you will cry, and he will say, “Here I am.” If you will remove the yoke from among you, stop false accusation and slander, 10 generously offer food to the hungry and meet the needs of the person in trouble; then your light will rise in the darkness, and your gloom become like noon. 11 ADONAI will always guide you; he will satisfy your needs in the desert, he will renew the strength in your limbs; so that you will be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. 12 You will rebuild the ancient ruins, raise foundations from ages past, and be called “Repairer of broken walls, Restorer of streets to live in.”
13 “If you hold back your foot on Shabbat from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call Shabbat a delight, ADONAI’s holy day, worth honoring; then honor it by not doing your usual things or pursuing your interests or speaking about them. 14 If you do, you will find delight in ADONAI – I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Ya’akov, for the mouth of ADONAI has spoken.”