Thursday, March 23, 2017

The fast


“Did someone drop the Torah?” I whispered nervously to the woman sitting next to me in the synagogue.

“I hope not,” she answered.

Everyone knows that if one witnesses a Torah scroll hitting the ground they should fast. We’d just ended Ta’anit* Esther less than forty hours earlier. No one wanted to refrain from eating from sunrise to sunset again. But what was that boom?

From our spot above in the women’s balcony, combined with the surge of men around the Holy Ark, it was impossible to really see what was going on. Later an announcement was made. No one had dropped the Torah. Rather, when the two scrolls to be read were taken from the ark a third one slipped out and fell to the ground.

We’re taught that nothing in life happens without a reason. The Almighty was sending us a message that Shabbat morning. It was up to all of us to do some introspection and decide if we’d been lax in some way. Had we not respected the laws inside the Torah enough? How about our behavior inside the synagogue? And, most important, were we treating our fellow worshipers properly?

The rabbi of Shilo called for a fast for Monday, ten days later, for anyone who’d seen or heard the falling and, this was a critical part of his directive, able to fast without a problem. Although I tried my best to think of an excuse not to fast I couldn’t come up with one. Truthfully, I agreed with my son’s thought that without fasting we wouldn’t take the matter as seriously as we should. 

Usually I fast well and, thankfully, that Monday was no exception. So I went to afternoon services and listened to the Torah reading. It was from Ki Tisa, the portion from the previous Shabbat. It’s also the portion that contains The Sin of the Golden Calf. For years I’d balk when we reached this portion. Life could have been so different if only there hadn’t been that sin. I didn’t want to learn or hear anything about it.

However, last year my husband reminded me of something profound. After The Sin of the Golden Calf, in the same Torah portion, the Children of Israel were given two gifts: the ability to repent and the knowledge of The Thirteen Attributes to be used when pleading for mercy from HaShem. That was what was read in the synagogue on the Monday of the fast.

It was very comforting to listen to the words being chanted. As I listened I remembered that we can use The Thirteen Attributes to plead with HaShem for forgiveness for the sins we did against Him. However, He cannot forgive the wrongs we do to one another without first getting forgiveness from them.

Soon after the Torah reading the fast ended. The work I need to do on myself, though, was just beginning. I pray I’ll be successful and be counted among those who will help bring the Moshiach**.
courtesy of

*The fast of Esther commemorating the fast of the Jews of Shushan. It usually occurs on the day preceding Purim. If Purim falls on Sunday there’s no fast on Shabbat. Instead it is pushed up to the preceding Thursday.


No comments: