Judaism teaches the value of enjoying life. We do not believe the road to holiness resides in abstinence and isolation but elevation and engagement. The first commandment in the Bible enjoined Adam and Eve to eat from every tree in the Garden except one.
We are encouraged to enjoy the pleasures of the world. Fasting is a rarity.
Yet, in the days before Purim, the most joyous of festivals, we observe the Fast of Esther in commemoration of the fast observed by the Jewish people in the wake of Haman’s decree to annihilate the nation.
What is the purpose of a fast day? What is its relevance to today?
Maimonides conveys the significance of a fast day. We abstain periodically from eating to inspire soul searching. Purim is the ultimate life affirming holiday. We celebrate our victory with a feast. Yet, we cannot be swept up the joys of life without maintain perspective on its purpose and meaning.
The fast in the era of Purim motivated the Jews to not only pray to G-d for salvation but arouse within the fortitude to actively participate in shaping their destiny. Are we spectators to history or are actors in the meta narrative?
Whether we fast tomorrow for an hour or from dawn till dusk, we can seize the days before Purim to deepen our commitments to the Jewish people and the world. Ask yourself what you can do to stand in solidarity with the nation of Israel? What can each of us do to instill our lives with a greater sense of responsibility to our people?
Wishing you an easy and meaningful fast,
Rabbi Daniel Cohen