By Larry Gordon
I forwarded an e mail from my cousin in South Africa who is a Rabbi in a Johannesburg synagogue to a friend of mine here in New York. The note was addressed to congregants that the fast would begin today at about 5:40pm and would end on Tuesday night at about 6:20 pm. By reading the e mail there was no sign that it was referring to services in South Africa. As a result the recipient of my e mail wrote back: “where is that shul?”
It seems that everyone is always looking for an early minyan to end these fasts. The quicker it seems the better. Here in New York with the Tisha B’Av fast occurring in August we get about a half hour reprieve as opposed to when the fast is observed in early July. I’ve seen some e mails from shuls that say that the fast ends here as early as 8:37pm and as late as 9:05pm.
Needless to say abstaining from food and drink intake for a full 25 hours is a difficult and challenging endeavor. This year there seems to be more meaning than usual to this fast that commemorates so many Jewish calamities. This time around the young men and women in the IDF fighting an intractable and blood thirsty enemy weighs heavy on our minds. We are not just praying for their safety and success, we are fasting for them as well.
As they say in Israel, “Easy over the fast,” or “Tzom Kal.” Others are wont to wish people, “a good and meaningful fast.”
My easiest and most memorable fast was when I left for Israel on a 1pm flight on the 17th of Tammuz a few years ago. By the time our watches said it was 5pm in New York with the time zone change we were ready for Maariv and to break our fasts. That was the closest I’ve come to breaking my fast at something akin to Johannesburg time. The best fasts seem to be a combination of meaningful, easy and quick.