Break Fast. Not break•fast aka brek•fǝst. No, we’re talking breaking the fast, the one where you don’t eat for roughly 24 hours, and where you’re conscious for the last roughly 18 hours or so.
For Jews fasting involves an “expression of piety for purification, atonement, or commemoration,” according to My Jewish Learning. The same site labels fasting, generally, “an ancient rite that was often used to express devoutness, induce visions, express sorrow, mourning or asceticism or as an aid in preparation for revelation of for a sacred meal.” (For more citations to source documents, take a look at Jewish Holidays: Fasting & Fast Days at Jewish Virtual Library.)
There is definitely a universality to fasting and its lesser counterpart, doing without something. Catholics, according to Canon 97, eat one meal and two lesser meals on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. True, still? And only applicable to those between 18 and 59? (Lent also involves giving up something, such as chocolate, meat, or some preferred activity.)
During Ramadan Muslims do not eat between dawn and the setting of the sun. A small meal—the Suhoor—may be taken before dawn, and the Iftar—a feast—happens each evening.
The Hindu religion includes fasting as a key element. Buddhists also fast, and some will subsist on nothing more than small amounts of water for 18 days.
In Judaism our main fast day—the one with which many people are familiar—is Yom Kippur. Tisha B’Av is another major fast day, and there are at least four minor fast days. On Yom Kippur different people follow different fasting traditions. I drink water and tea, plain and unsweetened, mostly to be sure I’m hydrated, and my fast begins after dinner, whatever time that might be.
Other people abstain completely. Some people fast not at all, and some people who should not fast for health reasons do so anyway. Not consistent with Halakhah, or legal, and if that word brings to mind Halal, the word used to describe lawful food in the Muslim word (and the inspiration for The Halal Guys, an exceptional food cart located at 53rd and 6th in Manhattan), you know why Ms. J refers to “the cousins” in the Middle East.
I did learn about a new tradition this year. One family breaks the fast at lunch time, after services. Actually, that tradition differs not at all from what I recall as a child, when we would go out to lunch after services. We just didn’t call it breaking the fast.
Breaking the fast is one of my favorite events. We go to two now, one with family and the families with whom we have been sharing our lives for 50 years, and another with friends with whom we have become acquainted in the past several years. (Yes, I can only truly break the fast once!)
So, ya, ya, we’re all hungry. Here are the bialys I baked, one batch for each event.
For the family thing, I also got dessert duty, with at least three directives to “make just one thing.” (At 57, the part of me that takes orders from anyone other than a judge or my firm’s managing partner doesn’t work so well.)
Jewish or not, Gmar Chatimah Tova, may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for Good in the coming year, and may you and yours be blessed with all things good and worthy.
(Look for a report on the Supreme Court’s opening day early Monday evening or on Tuesday morning. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!)