Today I fast. A simple, ancient act. As it is written in Joel 1:14,
“Solemnize a fast, Proclaim an assembly; Gather the elders—all the inhabitants of the land— In the House of the Divine, Cry out to the Creator.”
In those times, the land was rapidly being consumed by locusts. Drought and hunger had descended on all the people. The wheat and the crops of the field withered, and there were no grapes for wine or animals for sacrifice: “Offering and libation have ceased from the house of the Lord”.
Fear descended on the people. Like the fear that pervades today. And the calamities that ensnare us in webs of doubt and shame and anger and righteous indignation. And the protests erupt.
Tomorrow I will protest – what better way to fulfill the Sabbath, שַׁבָּת, literally to rest, to stop working, (also to strike like a union!). The world’s oldest protest. Tomorrow I will raise my voice and march and gather with thousands more to recommit myself to building a more just world and reject hatred. Tomorrow.
Today I fast. To clear my mind and focus inward. To find the strength in my history and my heritage to keep resisting when so many others say fall in line. To internalize the drought and the hunger and the suffering of so many millions of G-d’s people in this world.
The passage Joel in Prophets is not simply about calamity, but also about hope. Deep, stubborn, relentless hope. As when G-d says to Joel:
I will pour out My spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy;
Your old men shall dream dreams,
And your young men shall see visions.
Maybe G-d is telling Joel that it is precisely in times of deep communal calamity that visionary thinking prevails. In times of plenty, the grapes grow big and the cattle fat, and man can stockpile and adorn this world with material things galore. When that vanishes, we are reminded to whom the vine and the meat ultimately belong. And we are reminded that G-d’s bread only comes forth from the earth in true partnership with mankind, acting in concert with each other. If that partnership frays, we go hungry.
So today I fast. To stomp irreverently on fear. To rekindle hope.
Peace and love,