Today is Friday the 13th – an auspicious superstitious date – but that’s not why I’m fasting.
Today is also the Tenth of Tevet, an ancient minor fast day on the Jewish calendar, recalling the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem, under siege by the Assyrians, over 2,500 years ago. The breach brought about the fall of the city and the exile of the ten tribes. But that is also not why I’m fasting.
In the 1950’s the Israeli rabbinate declared this day as the annual memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust for whom no death date or burial place is known. My grandmother, Chaya Helena Lau of blessed memory, among them.
I will light a candle in her memory as I do each year and recite Kaddish. But that is also not why I’m fasting.
I’m fasting because my friend and teacher, Rabbi David Ingber, spiritual leader of the amazing Romemu community, reminded me that today is the day before the first anniversary of the terrible massacre at Sandy Hook.
Rabbi David sent a letter to his community yesterday in which he wrote:
“Last year I stated that I would fast on December 14th, 2013 in solidarity with the families who lost loved ones on that terrible day. This year, that day falls on Shabbat, a day on which we customarily refrain from fasting. I will be honoring my pledge by fasting on Friday, bringing together the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet and the Fast of 14th of December.”
So I’m fasting today because of all of it: The violent, terrible hate crime that took the life of my grandmother and countless other victims of the Holocaust; because of the senseless war that destroyed a sacred temple and extinguished so many lives and hopes; and because of the innocent souls killed this time last year, victims of a gun-crazed culture that refuses to take responsibility for the sanctity of life.
Fasting will not bring back the dead nor will it evoke gun law change, provoke progress or console the bereaved. But it is my way, as it has been the way of our people for so many generations, to remember, and to take a stand, quietly deprive myself of what is – so that I can meditate on what isn’t and commit myself to be part of the force for good, building a world with more compassion, justice, peace, and hope.
Please join Rabbi David, me and many others – take time out to remember, light a candle, fast or just sit in silence for a moment and pray with us for a better world. May all memories become blessings.