A High Holidays Message: Hungry for Repentance? Try Fasting!

Matthew 6:16–18

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Introduction

When I was growing up, in my home and in my friend’s home, fasting was required—but not enjoyed—and it was perfectly legitimate to share your misery with everyone. I understand this might not be the case in more religious Jewish homes and with some individuals, but this was true in my experience.

I have put together our family fasting rules.

Glaser Household—The Seven Rules of Fasting:

  1. Eat a huge meal the night before—as late as possible.
  1. Wake up the next morning as late as possible—1:00 pm is good!
  1. Take multiple naps during the day.
  1. Prepare for a headache by 3:00 pm, and accept the fact that Tylenol is not food.
  1. Remember, if you are sick, you do not have to fast; begin thinking through various illnesses a week ahead of time to make sure you have your list of symptoms prepared.
  1. Plan the break-fast well; decide between bagels and lox and a dairy meal or Chinese food. You may begin thinking about the meal after 4:00 pm, but try not to be consumed (get it?) … it is just a meal.
  1. Set your watch ahead by thirty minutes the day before (so you will not be late for synagogue) and question your watch only after you have taken your first bite. After all, if you have already broken the fast, then you cannot go backwards and should just keep eating!

I believe my family may have been just like yours! How many of us fast just because it is tradition?

As followers of Yeshua the Messiah, should we fast on Yom Kippur, and if so, why? We may have been taught that we fast to earn atonement, but the Bible and even Jewish tradition does not teach this. This common misconception might be why you, as a believer, have a problem with fasting on Yom Kippur. So, without my telling you what to do or trying to make up your mind for you on whether you should fast, let us look at the Scriptures and hear from God on this important matter.

If we do choose to fast, the words of Yeshua will guide us in how to get the most value out of fasting, the nature of the reward for those who fast well, and what can we do in the next twenty-four hours to receive this reward from the Lord.

The Jewish View on Fasting—Especially on Yom Kippur

As a start, we need to get some background about fasting from both the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish tradition.

According to common Jewish thinking, fast days fall into three main categories: (1) fasts decreed in the Bible or instituted to commemorate biblical events; (2) fasts decreed by the rabbis; (3) private fasts.[1]

In Judaism, we observe five minor fasts[2] and two major fasts. The two major fasts are Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, the ninth of the month of Av when we commemorate and increase our mourning over the destruction of the Temple.[3] The fast for Tisha B’Av is a major fast in traditional Judaism, but it is not a fast required by the Torah, as is the case with Yom Kippur.

In dealing with fasting beyond the Torah, it may be useful to categorize the instances by their occasions. These categories show fasting as: (1) a sign of grief or mourning, (2) a sign of repentance and seeking forgiveness for sin, (3) an aid in prayer, (4) an experience of the presence of God that results in the endorsement of His messenger, and (5) an act of ceremonial public worship.[4]

And we see illustrations of this in the life of King David who fasted for the life of his son, Daniel who fasted and prayed on behalf of the Jewish people, and many other instances of fasting in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Dr. Kent D. Berghuis writes in his doctoral dissertation on fasting,

The various references to fasting in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish tradition begin to converge in several key theological themes. The most basic ancient purpose of fasting as a sign of mourning in times of death or disaster branches into two main theological ideas, namely fasting as repentance for sin and fasting to intensify prayer when seeking God’s favor. Both of these ideas, however, presuppose an even more basic theological idea that the OT occasionally highlights through fasting references: that God is the ultimate source and sustainer of life, and human life depends on connection to his presence and obedience to his words.[5]

According to the prophet Zechariah, the Jewish people during his day fasted a number of times, and one day, these fasts will become feasts in the Messianic kingdom as there will be no more mourning or repentance.

Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace”’” (Zechariah 8:18–19).[6]

This idea of fasting-today-turned-into-feasting-tomorrow is a wonderful biblical theme that Yeshua discussed with the disciples of John the Baptist in Matthew 9:14:

“Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?’”

Yeshua answered in verse 15:

“And Jesus said to them, ‘The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.’”

In other words, fasting was linked to mourning and repentance, and since Yeshua was present, it was time to rejoice and not to mourn. After He left, it became more acceptable to fast. This also implies that, when He returns, it will be a time of joy and not mourning—a time for a Messianic banquet at which we will feast instead of fast. This is important, as we fast today not because we are mourning that we do not have the Messiah, but rather because we want to grow closer to Him.

The Key Yom Kippur Texts: (Leviticus 16; 23:26–32; Numbers 29:7)

It is important to know that the word for fast (צום) does not appear in the biblical passages about Yom Kippur. Instead, the phrase meaning “humble your souls” (וְעִנִּיתֶ֖ם אֶת־נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶ֑ם) appears, which at times is also translated “afflict yourselves.”[7] It is actually used in Isaiah 53, where the prophet predicted that the Messiah would bear all of our afflictions:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).

In the traditional Jewish mindset, afflicting oneself and fasting were often synonymous. Afflicting ourselves might include other aspects of self-denial aside from fasting. We do not need to limit fasting to food!

Thus, the rabbis declare that ʿinnah nefesh, enjoined for the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29, 31; 23:27–32), consists not only of fasting but of other forms of self-denial such as abstention from “washing, anointing, wearing shoes, and cohabitation” (Yoma 8:1; cf. Targum Jonathan, Leviticus 16:29).[8]

Leviticus 16:29–31

“This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.”

Leviticus 23:26–32

“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God. If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people. As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no work at all. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath.’”

Numbers 29:7

“Then on the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall humble yourselves; you shall not do any work.”

An Introduction to the message:

Fasting is not a way to earn forgiveness from sin. Fasting is a way to help us repent of our sin and everyday lack of dependence upon God. It should not be viewed as an end in and of itself.

Rather than repentance helping us to fast, fasting helps us to repent.

Yeshua, in speaking about fasting in Matthew 6:16–18, reminded His hearers that character is paramount and that our motives are what matter, not the externals of religious observance. Fasting, if done for the right reason, will lead an individual to repent in a way that could have great spiritual impact and lasting transformation.

Let us look closely at the text and try to understand what the Messiah is told His disciples.

The Context of the Sermon on the Mount

Yeshua focused on three areas of piety—good deeds, prayer, and fasting—all of which are acceptable and expected of godly people. He was not upset with what the Jewish religious leaders were doing, but how they were doing it. He was not upset with them for giving money to the poor, praying, or fasting. He was concerned with the way some of them were focusing on the externals of piety rather than on the condition of their hearts and motivation.

The Messiah believed that some of the religious leaders were eager to please men rather than God, and that is why they did religious things. The consistent message of the Bible is that God is far more interested in the condition of our hearts, our motivation for godly acts (like fasting), and our resultant behavior. As the Prophet Micah wrote,

“With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:6–8, emphasis added).

Fasting, a spontaneous phenomenon in the days of the First Temple, may have entered the calendar as a regular and recurring event only after the exile.[9] Theologian Kent Berghuis tells us that fasting had already become a regular part of Jewish religious life by the time of Jesus.[10]

Yeshua was obviously upset with a group of hypocrites who did good deeds and helped the poor but broadcasted their good deeds so that everyone knew what they were doing! Their motivation was to receive accolades from man rather than secret rewards from God (Matthew 6:2–4).

It is unfortunate that, throughout church history, religious Jews, especially the pharisees, were regarded as hypocrites. This is unfounded, so I do not want you to walk away from this message thinking the same thing! Yeshua was referring to a certain group who loved the praise of men rather than the praise of God. This charge cannot be laid at the feet of every religious Jew—either during the time of Jesus or today.

In fact, rather than thinking about others, it would be better to think about ourselves—our hearts and our motivation for worship and doing what we do. Are we in any way guilty of the same things that Jesus was concerned about regarding this group of hypocrites?

Yeshua clearly affirmed giving to the poor, praying, and fasting. But He instructed His listeners to do these things secretly for God, not publicly for the praise of man. If we obey His instructions, then “[our] Father who sees what is done in secret will reward [us]” (Matthew 6:4). Note His following instructions (emphasis added):

  • Matthew 6:2—“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”
  • Matthew 6:3–4—“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
  • Matthew 6:5 —“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men.”
  • Matthew 6:6—“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
  • Matthew 6:16–18—“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Jesus was not telling them not to fast, but to do so in the right way with the right heart.

He did not say if you fast, but when you fast, just like when you pray and when you give to the poor (vv. 16–17). The Lord expects us to fast at times, but to fast in an authentic way that glorifies Him and brings us a reward.

Jesus wants His followers to fast with the right motivation, indicated by their doing so quietly and without seeking public accolades (Matthew 6:18). Matthew 6 makes clear that Yeshua expected that at times we will fast, and so, you will be doing nothing wrong by fasting for the 24 hours of Yom Kippur. But it is important to know why you are fasting and to do so correctly.

Pastor and author, John Piper, wrote the following on authentic fasting:

Jesus calls them hypocrites. Why? Because the heart that motivates fasting is supposed to be a heart for God. That’s what fasting means: a heart-hunger for God. But the heart motivating their fasting is a heart for human admiration…. So there are two dangers that these fasting folks have fallen into. One is that they are seeking the wrong reward in fasting, namely, the esteem of other people. They love the praise of men. And the other is that they hide this with a pretense of love for God…. So Jesus tests our hearts to see if God himself will be our sufficiency—when nobody else knows what we are doing. When no one is saying, “How are you getting on with the fast?” No one even knows—no one but God!… If God is not real to you, it will be miserable to endure something difficult with God as the only one who knows.[11]

So, now instead of the Glaser Household Rules for Fasting, let me share with you eight other insights I have gleaned from Scripture on fasting that might be helpful.

  1. Fasting deepens our personal worship of the Lord.

The relationship between fasting and prayer is very important, and this can be seen in Daniel’s prayer of repentance.

So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.” (Daniel 9:3–6)

If one is going to get the most value out of fasting, it is also important that we spend time in prayer, because fasting is not only about what we are denying (ourselves and this world), but what we are trying to appropriate and receive from the Lord—things that this world cannot give that will satisfy our souls.

Believers fast to make more of Jesus in heaven and less of ourselves and things on Earth. Fasting helps us to separate between our needs and our wants—to differentiate what is necessary and appropriate from what is extravagant. When we fast, we realize that a sip of water and a taste of bread that sustains physical life is all we need and that the rest of our diet—especially good food—should be viewed as signs of God’s grace and love. A great meal should cause us to give praise to a great God who created the building blocks for that meal.

  1. Fasting encourages repentance and leads to changed behavior and an increase in doing good deeds. 

Theologian Richard Foster reflects,

More than any other single Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of [Yeshua]. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. Anger, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.[12]

On this topic, Piper also adds,

So here we have another test of authenticity. Jesus said, If you are fasting to be seen by others, you have your reward. That’s it. Isaiah says, If your fasting leaves you self-indulgent in other areas, harsh toward your employees, irritable and contentious, then your fasting is not acceptable to God. It’s not what he chooses. God is mercifully warning us against the danger of substituting religious fervor for righteous living.[13]

  1. Fasting is more about focusing on what you do than on what you do without.

One of the passages that speaks directly to this principal is Isaiah chapter 58. The prophet linked fasting to transformed behavior. He argued that if your fasting is not connected to godly living, then your fast is in vain. This does not mean we should not fast, but that we cannot try to please God by fasting and then displease Him the next moment by acting badly, disobeying Him, sinning against our fellow man, or withholding what is right, generous, and helpful to our fellow man.

Isaiah 58 wrote:

Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?…And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:6–7; 10–11)

  1. Fasting strengthens your fellowship with other believers and leads to greater ministry and guidance. 

Acts 13:1–2 says, “Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”

Like the believers in the early church, sometimes we need to fast to seek His direction at important times in our lives or when we have a great need for guidance. This could be one good reason to fast during Yom Kippur.

  1. Fasting leads to a greater dependence upon God. 

Maybe you have heard it said, “You do not have to be overweight to be a glutton.” Some of us who are overweight are not gluttonous at all, and some of us who are quite fit can be gluttonous because we focus on the extravagance of good food without proper gratitude to God.

When we fast, we come to grips with the value of our “daily bread.” Fasting helps us to identify our lack of dependence upon God for our daily bread and our lust for food and other treats in this world, which cause us to focus on the created rather than on the Creator.

  1. Fasting leads to humility; therefore, those who fast should be discreet and not call attention to their fasts.

Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and is considered one of the most influential people of the twentieth century. This little story reveals her heart and how she illustrates the godly sacrifices that come from self-denial—fasting or otherwise. 

As the story goes, a well-known Christian speaker was visiting with Mother Teresa and everyone removed their shoes for prayer.

In most parts of India, it is a custom for everyone to remove their shoes when entering any place of worship. Shane noticed that when Mother Teresa took her shoes off for daily prayer, her feet were knobby, gnarled, deformed and pressed in the wrong directions. Shane wondered whether it was a birth defect, the result of an accident, the side effects of a disease or illness or perhaps due to leprosy. A sister of the Missionaries of Charity explained.

Mother Teresa and her sisters relied on donations for everything, including their shoes. They received donations of used shoes once in a while for distribution among the needy. When a load of used shoes would come in, Mother Teresa used to dig through the pile of shoes and consistently chose the worst pair for herself regardless of how badly they may have fitted. Her feet deteriorated by wearing substandard shoes. She crippled herself showing love and compassion to those that had nothing.

Mother Teresa loved the needy so much that she wanted them to have the best of the worst and not the worst.[14]

She said of herself, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”[15]

  1. Fasting helps you to identify with the suffering of others—the poor, those deprived of basic human needs, the misery of injustice, and the poverty of the soul.

Fasting reminds us of what we have and of how generous God has been to us. By doing without food, we appreciate what we have and become more sensitive to what others do not have.

Writer Rahel Musleah reminds us of this truth in her article entitled, “A Day to Bare our Souls and Find Ourselves”:

‘Fasting is an important way to feel our own privilege,’ says Reimer. ‘We have a choice whether to eat, but that’s not a choice we all have. I use fasting to identify with people who don’t have enough.’ As a child of survivors, Reimer grew up with stories of her parents living on a slice of bread a day—or less. ‘When I fast, part of me connects backward to their history. Then I look forward, to what my obligation is to others in the same place.’ Her congregation, the Worship and Study Congregation, part of Harvard Hillel, follows Kol Nidrei with an appeal for Project Bread, which provides food for the hungry.

‘I often joke that Yom Kippur is the day to invite people for lunch,’ says Reimer, who nonetheless uses the break in services to run home to set up for the post-fast meal. ‘It’s different than feeding myself,’ she muses. ‘It’s about my need to feed others.’ The haftarah—the reading from the Prophets—satisfies her sensitivity toward social justice. ‘It says that all the outside ritual is unimportant; all that matters is reaffirming our concern for others, our commitment to care for the needy, the outcast and those who are less fortunate.’[16]

  1.  Fasting for the right reasons and in the right way brings great reward.

I appreciate what the great Methodist preacher John Wesley said in one of his sermons concerning the question, “How are we to fast, so that it may be acceptable to the Lord?” He provided the following five instructions:

1. First, let it be done to the Lord, with our eye firmly fixed on Him.

2. Secondly, if we do desire this reward, let us beware of thinking we will merit anything from God by our fasting.

3. Thirdly, let us be careful to humble our souls as well as our bodies.

4. Fourthly, let us always join fervent prayer with fasting, pouring out our souls before God, confessing our sins, humbling ourselves under his mighty hand, laying open before him all our needs, all our guiltiness and helplessness.

5. Lastly, one other thing needs to be mentioned with regard to fasting: in order for our fasting to be acceptable to the Lord, we need to add prayers and gifts to the poor; works of mercy, within our power, both to the bodies and souls of men, for: “With such sacrifices God is pleased.”[17]

What then is the promised reward? And is it worth going without food? Yeshua said, “Your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:18).

While an answer to prayer may come, or direction in a problem, the greatest reward is clearly the Lord Himself; it is His presence. This is the reward most cherished by every believer in every age and even more so for those who have had their sins forgiven and know Yeshua as their Messiah.

Conclusion

May I suggest a menu for Yom Kippur?

A Day of Atonement menu should include the following:

  • The appetizer—repentance
  • The main course—fasting leading to our dependence upon God for all things
  • Side dishes—faith, wisdom, guidance
  • Dessert—joyful transformation and good deeds

What’s new about fasting as believers in Yeshua?

We fast on Yom Kippur not to obtain atonement and forgiveness of sins. As believers in Yeshua, we fast knowing our sins are forgiven by Yeshua’s once-for-all sacrifice. Piper explains this “new fasting” as follows:  

What’s new about the fasting is that it rests on all this finished work of the Bridegroom. The yearning that we feel for revival or awakening or deliverance from corruption is not merely longing and aching. The first fruits of what we long for have already come. The down payment of what we yearn for is already paid. The fullness that we are longing for and fasting for has appeared in history and we have beheld his glory. It is not merely future.

We have tasted the powers of the age to come, and our new fasting is not because we are hungry for something we have not tasted, but because the new wine of [Messiah’s] presence is so real and so satisfying. The newness of our fasting is this: its intensity comes not because we have never tasted the wine of [Messiah’s] presence, but because we have tasted it so wonderfully by his Spirit and cannot now be satisfied until the consummation of joy arrives.[18]

Hasidic Story

An old Hassidic story really sums up the role and reason for fasting both during Yom Kippur and at other times for the person seeking a deeper relationship with the God of Israel.

A man once complained to Chassidic master Rabbi Bunim of Peshischa:

“I saw it written in the holy books that if a person fasts a certain number of times, he will merit that Elijah the Prophet will reveal himself to him and teach him the secrets of the Torah. Well, I fulfilled the regimen of fasts, exactly as prescribed, yet Elijah did not reveal himself to me.”

Rabbi Bunim told the man the following story:

Once, the holy Baal Shem Tov had to travel to a far-off destination on a matter of extreme importance to the welfare of a Jewish community. As was his custom on such trips, the Baal Shem Tov told his coachman, Alexis, to drop the reins and turn around in his bench. No sooner had the coachman turned his back on the horses that the road began to literally fly under their feet, and they traversed a many weeks’ journey in a few hours.

The horses, noticing that they were galloping past the feeding stations without stopping, thought to themselves: “Perhaps we are not horses after all, but human beings. Otherwise, why are we not being given oats and water at the customary places? Surely we will eat with the men, when they stop for their meals at the crossroads inns.”

But the inns, too, flew by, one after another, with dizzying speed. “It seems,” the horses now surmised, “that we are not men after all, but angels, who do not partake of earthly food at all.”

But then the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples arrived at their destination and rushed off to attend to their holy mission, while Alexis unhitched the horses and led them to the barn, where they guzzled water and devoured oats like the horses they were…

“The purpose of a fast,” concluded Rabbi Bunim, “is to refine the person, to have him transcend, if only for a few hours, the gross materiality of the human state. But if the moment the fast ends he attacks his food with the fervor of a man who hasn’t eaten all day, what has been achieved?”[19]

As believers in Yeshua the Messiah, there are benefits and blessings that come with fasting that can last a lifetime. It is good for the body and for the soul.


[1] “Jewish Holidays: Fasting and Fast Days,” Jewish Virtual Library, accessed September 18, 2020, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/fasting-and-fast-days.

[2] “Three of these five fasts commemorate events leading to the downfall of the first commonwealth and the destruction of the first Temple, which is commemorated by the major fast of Tisha B’Av. Following is a list of minor fasts required by Jewish law, their dates, and the events they commemorate: The Fast of Gedaliah, Tishri 3, commemorates the killing of the Jewish governor of Judah, a critical event in the downfall of the first commonwealth. The Fast of Tevet, Tevet 10, is the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem. It has also been proclaimed a memorial day for the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. The Fast of Esther, Adar 13, commemorates the three days that Esther fasted before approaching King Ahasuerus on behalf of the Jewish people. The fast is connected with Purim. If Adar 13 falls on a Friday or Saturday, it is moved to the preceding Thursday, because it cannot be moved forward a day (it would fall on Purim). The Fast of the Firstborn, Nissan 14, is a fast observed only by firstborn males, commemorating the fact that they were saved from the plague of the firstborn in Egypt. It is observed on the day preceding Passover. The Fast of Tammuz, Tammuz 17, is the date when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, another major event leading up to the destruction of the First Temple.” See Tracey R Rich, “Minor Fasts,” Judaism 101, accessed September 18, 2020, https://www.jewfaq.org/holidaye.htm.

[3] For a more extensive list, see “Jewish Holidays: Fasting & Feast Days,” https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/fasting-and-fast-days.

[4] “Jewish Holidays: Fasting and Fast Days.”

[5] Kent D. Berghuis, Christian Fasting: A Theological Approach (Richardson, TX: Biblical Studies Press, 2013), https://bible.org/seriespage/chapter-1-fasting-old-testament-and-ancient-judaism-mourning-repentance.

[6] “Fixed fast days are first mentioned by the post-Exilic prophet Zechariah who proclaims the word of the Lord thus: ‘The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth…’ (Zechariah 8:19; cf. 7:3, 5). Jewish tradition has it that these fasts commemorate the critical events which culminated in the destruction of the Temple: the tenth of Tevet (the tenth month), the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem; the 17th of Tammuz (the fourth month), the breaching of the walls; the ninth of Av (the fifth month), when the Temple was destroyed; and the third of Tishri (the seventh month), when Gedaliah, the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah, was assassinated. Some scholars maintain that these fast days are much older, marking the beginning of a Lenten period which preceded the seasonal festivals, and to which only later tradition affixed the events of the national catastrophe.” See “Jewish Holidays: Fasting and Fast Days,” Jewish Virtual Library, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/fasting-and-fast-days

[7] “However, it is not specifically described as a ‘fast’ in the Hebrew Bible, nor is fasting enjoined. That is, the words from the root צום are not employed, nor is there any explicit reference to abstaining from food. Instead, the Hebrew uses a broader term ( תְּעַנּוּ אֶת־נפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם, which may have included fasting as an understood application) and commands the people to ‘afflict,’ ‘deny,’ or ‘humble yourselves.’ Jewish tradition practiced fasting on that day, as also evidenced by the Targums (which actually used the Aramaic cognate of צום), the Qumran literature, and the NT. Since Jewish tradition universally has interpreted the instructions of these passages to include fasting as a sign of afflicting and humbling oneself, it is possible that other places in the Bible that mention humbling, affliction, and the like may have in fact tacitly included fasting. This connection is clear in Ps 35:13, ‘I humbled my soul with fasting’ ( עִנֵּיתִי בַצּוֹם נַפְשִׁי) (NASB). Here, fasting is explicitly the means of ‘humbling’ oneself. Isa 58:3 similarly links these terms: ‘Why don’t you notice when we fast? Why don’t you pay attention when we humble ourselves?’ In this poetic text, צַּמְנוּ stands in parallel relationship to עִנִּינוּ נַפְשֵׁנוּ in the next line. It is reasonable that a similar logical relationship exists with the Day of Atonement admonitions, even though the Hebrew text itself is not explicit. Fasting is a particular expression of the more general concept of humbling oneself. The first use of צוּם and the first narrative reference to fasting after Moses is Judg 20:26, when Israel fasted during the Benjamite civil war.” See Kent D. Berghuis.

[8] “Jewish Holidays: Fasting & Feast Days,” JewishVirtualLibrary.org.

[9] “As the fasts of Israel turned routine, the prophets urged the people to true justice in anticipation of the eschatological day when their mourning would be turned to gladness, their fasting to feasting. Against the backdrop of Jewish fasting that occasionally obscured true humility, repentance and justice through hypocrisy and ritual, the eschatological realization of the ideal that fasting anticipated came in the person of Jesus Christ. … During the Second Temple period, daily or biweekly fastings were practiced for reasons of asceticism, especially among women (Judith 8:6; Luke 2:37; TJ, Ḥag 2:2, 77d), but also among men (Luke 18:12; Mark 2:18), or in preparation for an apocalyptic revelation (Dan. 10:3, 12; ii Bar. 12:5; 20:5–21:1; 43:3; iv Ezra 5:13–20; 6:35; Sanh. 65b; TJ, Kil. 9:4, 32b). The Jewish literature of the Second Temple period also advocates fasting as a way of atonement for sins committed either unintentionally (Ps. of Sol. 3:9) or even deliberately (Test. Patr., Sim. 3:4), or to prevent them (ibid., Joseph 3:4; 4:8; 10:1–2). These reasons for fasting were strengthened by the destruction of the Second Temple and even more by the repression of the Bar Kokhba revolt and the subsequent religious persecutions. The Second Temple period literature also stressed that a fast without sincere repentance is valueless and senseless (Test. Patr., Ash. 2:8; 4:3; cf. ibid., Joseph 3:5 – in addition to the fast, Joseph gave his food to the poor and the sick). In the Second Temple period fasting was also seen as an “ascetic exercise” which serves to purify man and bring him closer to God.” See Kent D. Berghuis.

[10] Finally, fasting as a discipline, a routine for the pious, is attested only in post-biblical times in the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and Qumran literature. See “Jewish Holidays: Fasting & Feast Days,” JewishVirtualLibrary.org.

[11] John Piper, “Fasting for the Father’s Reward,” desiringGod, February 5, 1995, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/fasting-for-the-fathers-reward.

[12] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: Harper, 1998), 55.

[13] John Piper, “A Fast for Waters That Do Not Fail,” desiringGod, February 12, 1995, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/a-fast-for-waters-that-do-not-fail.

[14] T.V.Antony Raj, “Mother Teresa’s Feet,” Impressions (blog), February 9, 2013, https://tvaraj.com/2013/02/09/mother-teresas-feet/.

[15] Mother Teresa, “Mother Teresa > Quotes > Quotable Quote,” Goodreads, accessed September 24, 2020, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/30608-i-m-a-little-pencil-in-the-hand-of-a-writing.

[16] Rahel Musleah, “A Day to Bare Our Souls—And Find Ourselves,” http://barbarany9.blogspot.com/2006/10/day-to-bare-our-soulsand-find.html.

[17] John Wesley, “When You Fast,” Bible Bulletin Board, accessed September 24, 2020, https://www.biblebb.com/files/jw-001fasting.htm.

[18] John Piper, “When the Bridegroom Is Taken Away, They Will Fast—With New Wineskins,” desiringGod, January 8, 1995, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/when-the-bridegroom-is-taken-away-they-will-fast-with-new-wineskins.

[19] “After the Fast,” Chabad.org, accessed September 24, 2020, https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/73823/jewish/After-the-Fast.htm.

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