Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tisha B'av with Food

Okay, so fine, I'm an agnostic. I don't really feel God or spirituality the way other people seem to.

And I'm not really sad about the absence of a Temple in Israel. (In fact, I think I'd be more disturbed than anything about things like animal sacrifices that are supposed to take place there.)

That said, as I wrote in my last post, I do find meaning in Tisha B'av - in remembering the loss and suffering of so many of my ancestors, in so many places, generations. But I've never been able to experience that meaningfulness because my body simply shuts down without food (see previous post for more specific details).

So this Tisha B'av, I ate.

I limited myself: only plain bread, plain pasta, juice, and water.

I didn't play any of those games where you only eat a morsel every minute or so. I didn't think that sort of activity would help add meaning to the day -- it seems like it would only serve to make me focus even more on food, etc.

I have to say that this was the most meaningful Tisha B'av, most meaningful fast day actually, I've ever had. And that includes all of those I observed when I was more religious that I am now.
It was a "fast" the way the Christians define it during Lent (only, I guess, more extreme). Every time I opened the refrigerator, I had to stop myself from taking what I really wanted - and then, got to think about why I was doing that.

And that's the thing: I was mentally present enough to think about it. Completely incredible, for me, at least.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Being Decisive: Tisha B'av

Even in my least religious moments, I've always seen a justification for fasting on Tisha B'av.

Unlike Yom Kippur, it doesn't necessarily (at least the way I understand it) have to do with a belief in God. Well, I suppose the idea really is that in the end God's going to bring moshiach... But what I mean is - you needn't believe in God for Tisha B'av to have meaning.

The fast day is all about remembering and mourning all the tragedies in our nation's history - more specifically, about morning the tragedies of our ancestors. I've always understood it that way. And so it always made sense to me to follow it.

But here's the thing: fasting makes me sick. More than anybody else I know. While no doctor has ever told me not to fast (I've never asked!), I have a tendency to become hypoglycemic, and fasting means that I literally cannot move from the couch for at least the last 10 hours. It also means a good 10 hour recovery time post-fast.

Last year, I had a particularly bad attack of hypoglycemia, broke my fast on orange juice, and then continued to fast afterward.

But this year, I'm making the decision before the fast even begins that I will not fast. I won't go out, party, and order myself a chocolate cheese cake either, but I won't fast.

I'm going to commemorate the day in my own way - keep things serious, eat only as much as necessary. But I don't see the point anymore of following the tradition as is, simply because it's tradition, if the said tradition renders me completely and utterly unable to move.

And I think, just maybe, this is the way the rest of my outlook on Judaism/tradition/what-the- hell-I'm-going-to-do-with-my-life-religiously is starting to shape up. We shall see.