As we get ready for our Yom Kippur fast, I came across this brief article, asking why, exactly, we fast. The author lays out 4 different explanations, all of which find support in our tradition (one one constant in Judaism: there is never only one answer to any question!). But, there is only one of them, he claims, which finds Biblical support:
Isaiah's prescription for the fast that God desires addresses precisely these elements: when you gather in the town square to call out to God, think of the people who sleep there at night because they have no home. When you feel the pangs of hunger after not eating for a day, think about those for whom this is a regular occurrence. When you don your sackcloth and ashes and take off your comfortable shoes, remember that there are those who do not have what to wear. The point of fasting is to sensitize us to those for whom such denials are a daily occurrence, and not by choice.
The entire point of our fast is to sensitize ourselves to those who are in constant deprivation and need, so that we will be more likely to help those people, when our fast is over. Which means that our fast is judged not by how hard we pray during it, but by how hard we work to help others, when we're done.
Funny. That's almost exactly what I'll be saying tomorrow morning. Hope to see you there, so you can hear all about it (out of towners - I'll post it after the holiday, so you can read it, too!).
G'mar Chatimah Tova - may you be sealed in the book of life.