Today is ShivAsar (17th) of Tamuz – the fast of the 4th month.
On this day the luchos were broken. On this day the Babylonian siege caused us to stop offering the “permanent” daily sacrifice (tamid), on this day Apostomos burned a sefer Torah, on this day an idol was placed in the Mikdash, on this day both the Babylonians and the Romans breached the walls of Yerushalayim.
I was thinking… why do we call it a “fast”?
The English word comes from the Old English, Germanic and Old Norse word “Foest” which means strongly or firmly as we would say in English “to hold fast” to something. Discipline. Self control. This is not far from the Hebrew meaning of Tzom – relating to constriction / restriction.
The purpose of all the fasts is to help us do teshuva. Perhaps we can “fast-forward” our spiritual ascent a bit by practicing this restraint. How can we do this?
I suggest the following: Along with not eating and drinking let us “fast” today from a few other indulgences:
Let us fast today from the indulgence of lashon hara (forbidden gossip, editorializing and negative association)
Let us fast today from the indulgence of hurtful speech (ona’as devarim)
Let us fast today from the indulgence of criticizing one another and ourselves.
Let us fast today from the indulgence of negative thoughts and complaints whether about ourselves, others or G-d.
May we merit that this be our last year of celebrating the 17th this way and may we fast-forward to the era of Moshiach when, as is foretold in the prophet Zecharia: (8:19)
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.”
And say Amen!
PS – These fasts are respectively: 17 Tamuz, 9th of Av, Tzom Gedalia, and 10th of Tevet – all part of the churban (destruction) cycle.