Life in the Fast(ing) Lane

I didn't realize that it was a fast day when I ate breakfast this morning. It didn't occur to me because I didn't plan on fasting. Tzom Gedalia is a "minor" fast and I usually only fast on Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur, so it wasn't even on my radar.

 Gym shirt? Going-out-in-public shirt? The shirt I slept in for the past 4 days? It's all the same.

Gym shirt? Going-out-in-public shirt? The shirt I slept in for the past 4 days? It's all the same.

I woke up exhausted and starving, feeling "hungover" from Rosh Hashana and our late night drive home from my in-laws. The only thing on my mind was CARBS. After too many slices of toast, I put on gym clothes and went out to run errands. The plan was to eat lunch and hit the gym when I got home. 

All was well until I checked Instagram and saw someone mention the fast. Oh. It's a fast today. Did I know that? Is Tzom Gedalia always the day after Rosh Hashana? I tried to push the fast day out of my head. I never bother with the minor fasts, it's not like they matter. But why not? Why don't they matter? I never fast on Tzom Gedalia. Why should I start now? Besides, I already ate. Clearly I'm not fasting. The decision was made the moment I took a bite out of that grape jelly-covered toast. Why start fasting now?

Why not? For the past two days I was on a spiritual high. I thought about what I have done wrong and what I want to do better. I said all the tehillim in the back of the Machzor for the first time. I davened, I sat in shul. I spent my down time reading a book on marriage, family life and personal growth that didn't make me roll my eyes. I made the same resolutions I make every year about davening more. I was able to feel that my davening and my Tehillim and my mitzvos mean the world to Hashem.

After all that, I'm going to disregard fasting on Tzom Gedalia just because it's a "minor" fast? Just because it isn't as glamorous as hearing shofar on Rosh Hashana or fasting on Yom Kippur? That doesn't seem right. I'm not going to fast just because I didn't fast in past years? I'm going to eat all afternoon, just because I ate some toast this morning?

By that logic, I don't have to -- I shouldn't -- keep any mitzvos. I doubt I fulfill a single mitzva one hundred percent correctly. Even if I do, there are plenty that I disregard completely, either out of laziness, ignorance, inability or not being at that point in my journey yet. By that logic, there's no merit in doing anything if I can't do everything. Once I do wrong, there can be no doing right.

Happily for us imperfect mortals, that's not how living a Torah lifestyle works. Not at all. I do what I can and what I do is my very best. I get all the points for the mitzvos I do, regardless of the mitzvos I don't do. Even though I sinned an hour ago and will continue to live an imperfect life for the rest of my existence, the mitzvah I choose to do right now matters. To Hashem, it is a diamond. Sure, He'd like ALL the diamonds, but their absence doesn't make this one any less valuable.

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Yesterday was Rosh Hashana: a fresh start, a gush of spirituality, a plethora of promises to be better. Today I decided to fast for the rest of the day, despite eating breakfast, despite my previous track record, despite being imperfect. In this moment, at least for this afternoon, I decided to be better. 

If you're fasting today, you should have an easy fast. If you aren't fasting today, why not? It's never too late to start fresh!

Shana Tova!