Monday, July 19, 2010

Meaningful or Easy?

Quite a while ago, in reference to Yom Kippur, there was discussion going on in the blogosphere about whether or not to wish someone an easy fast or a meaningful fast. With Tishe Ba'Av beginning tonight, I'm coming firmly down on the side of easy. My reasoning is simple: if the fast isn't easy the meaningful isn't going to happen.

I fall in the category of really lousy fasters. It's not the lack of food that does me in but the lack of liquids. We've all had days when things piled up and we somehow find ourselves at the end of the day noticing that we haven't had time to eat anything. But we did all find time to drink something, because liquids are necessary to keep the body going. And when a taanis falls in hot muggy weather the effect of that lack of liquid is magnified for me. It really doesn't matter how much I have to drink today. Thanks to the efficient human plumbing system that liquid is going to be old news tomorrow.

It's been suggested many a time that keeping busy takes ones mind off the fasting and its side affects. Right. Try concentrating on reading when you have an incipient headache. Even when I've had summer school classes that coincide with Tishe Ba'Av and I've had to be in class, I am never sure afterwards if anything I taught that day was totally coherent. Certainly by early afternoon my voice starts getting raspy. And I'm not the only one who finds getting through a taanis a tirchah.

So yes, I'm wishing you all first an easy fast, and then I'll add on a meaningful fast. And some day I'm going to ask someone to explain in detail to me why our fast days include no drinking. To my knowledge we are the only religious group that requires a 25+hour fast with no food or drink. Why? But please, don't give me the explanation tomorrow--my brain will simply not be up to absorbing it.


Anonymous said...

Dehydration can be dangerous, particularly for the very young, elderly and sick. I will never forget the rabbi at one shul I went to who, on an unusually hot Yom Kippur ( over 90 degrees) ordered everyone over 60 or with any heart or other health problems to have some water.
Wishing you an easy and meaningful fast.

tesyaa said...

I wished someone an easy fast yesterday and he practically chastised me for not using "meaningful" instead.

Miami Al said...


Lovely revisionism. Wish someone a Mazel Tov upon finding out they are pregnant, and you get a rebuke for not saying B'shah Tovah. However, people that were Orthodox 20-50 years ago, and are not now, ALL say Mazel Tov.

Somewhere in the past 20 years, we've switched to B'shah Tovah and "having a meaningful fast" and retroactively decided that that was what we always said.

First person I heard talking about "meaningful fasts" was 20 years ago and a Reform Rabbi talking about Yom Kippur. At the time, every Orthodox Jew that I knew wished people an easy fast. Now people say meaningful fast, and anyone saying anything else is "wrong."

Offwinger said...

I wish people an easy AND meaningful fast. Ergo, I am frummer than all of you. Hehehe.

As for the other phrases, I was recently at a friend's house, and there was a very long discussion about pregnancy and parenting choice where one of my friends persisted in qualifying *every* sentence to another friend with "b'sha'ah tova." E.g., "If and when you're expecting, b'sha'ah tovah, then..." Even she realized it was becoming a parody of itself.

Then again, people who litter their speech with "im yetzer hashem" and "bli ayin harah" or "baruch hashem" type of remarks are actually kind of funny, if you take them literally.

"I'm planning to see my brother on yetzer hashem."
So...if you don't see your brother on Pesach, it's because God didn't want it? Guess what! I'll be keeping kashrut this yetzer hashem. Oh well. I ate a cheeseburger. Guess it was God's will!

Bli ayin harah, we're flying to Chicago on Tuesday! Well, yeah, I hope the evil eye and satan isn't plotting against United Airlines too.

I understand "b'sha'ah tovah" to the extent it's recognizing that not all pregnancies wind up with a healthy delivery for Mom and baby. That's really semantics. I mean, no one with a late term miscarriage is going to feel better that people wished them b'sha'ah tova and not mazel tov. Nor is wishing "Mazel Tov" a JINX of any sort. or an ayin harah. See above.