It is Tisha B'Av and I am in transit from upstate New York to my home in New Jersey.I confess that all I want at the moment is my daily cup of coffee-I could easily dispense with food and other drink indefinitely, but only on condition that coffee, in whatever form, would be available.
There is much time to think, to cogitate and contemplate one's feelings and sensations on a day such as this.Occasional grumbling from within emerges; a pang of hunger darts through my mind, an automatic expectation of immediate gratification ensues. I remind myself that this sensation of need will be delayed for the day. Somehow, I think away the discomfort and focus on something else. I am able to take some reassurance from the fact that my hunger and thirst are temporary at best, and in a few hours I will once again enjoy the easy access to a refrigerator and food pantry to replenish my body and restore a sense of clarity to my mind.
The thought then arises: When a starving person somewhere in Africa or Asia experiences pangs of hunger, what do they look forward to? How many hours must past before they can restore their sense of well-being by inserting a spoonful of something into their quivering mouths or by cupping their hands with some dirty water brought to parched and cracked lips? I shudder at the awareness of so many having to harden themselves in the face of such want and deprivation, with so little hope of any access to the most meager of meals.
My discomfort is genuine yet almost laughable,almost inexcusable,in the knowledge of so much need of so many .
For us, we indulge in preparation to fast and celebrate the break fast at the end of twenty four hours of deliberate self-deprivation. Our fast is symbolic,temporary, an exercise.What about the millions for whom fasting is not prepared for nor is it broken any time soon. The absence of food is chronic, persistent, a way of life. Parenthetically, the New York Times reveals today that Sudan is engaged in the surplus production of food for export while millions of its citizens starve, dependent on charity from foreign sources. I wonder what the prophets of Israel would say to that!
Therefore, I am grateful for this fast as it reminds me of my good fortune and blessing. What remains is to share this gift with others. This is our task as the fast will soon draw to an end.