Our Torah portion, Balak, tells an ancient story that resonates today as we read of the United Nations most recent declaration that the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs (know as: Machpelah
) where our Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried will henceforth be considered “Palestinian World Heritage Sites.” This is today’s story. And, Balak, is essentially the same story told in ancient times. Both then and now, part of the story of the Jewish people is their recurrent isolation in the broader world of nations, especially as it pertains to our connection to the Promised Land – to the Land of Israel!
This coming Tuesday is Tzom Shiva Asar b’Tammuz [the fast of the 17th day of Tammuz]. This is a “minor” fast – meaning that the fast begins at dawn on Tuesday morning and ends at dark on Tuesday night. It is significantly shorter than the fast of Yom Kippur and the fast of Tisha B’Av. Both of those fasts last 26 full hours. Tzom Shiva Asar b’Tammuz inaugurates a 3-week mourning period, which concludes on Tisha B’Av – the date on which the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 C.E.
Sometimes minor fasts carry with them major messages. Whether we fast, or not, remembering the process that led to the destruction of the Second Temple, reminds us that there are processes at play that affect us and the world around us.
Noting a minor fast day in our calendar helps us to appreciate how our lives can contribute to the “good” that will eventually be reflected more globally in our world. That “good” that our prophets believed will one day become prevalent in our world is what our prophets envisioned as the Messianic Era. The minor fasts remind us that we are all part of the greater processes at play in the world. Awareness is the first step to doing our part to make the world a better place! There is nothing more “awakening” than to be cognizant of a fast day and of the major message that it carries!
For those of us who will be fasting on Tuesday, and for those of us who will be remembering the fast, I wish us all a meaningful message, and a renewed sense of purpose and of hope.