Fasting might seem a grim topic in the midst of the Orange County Fair, beach picnics and the start of the
However, Jews will not be alone this summer in observing a fast:
While the Jewish calendar is lunar-solar (adding leap months periodically to keep the
Fasting practices are less demanding in Christianity, mainly confined to
Is fasting medieval, a vestige of a world of extreme penitence that today is largely viewed as irrelevant, even masochistic?
Congress in 1952 passed legislation declaring the first Thursday in May a National Day of Prayer, but with no mention of fasting.
Voluntary fasting might have contemporary relevance. We live in a world where 1 billion of its 7 billion inhabitants suffer from chronic hunger. What if every American were to skip one meal a month and contribute the monetary savings to a relief organization? Multiply that by 180 million and the gnawing hunger of a child somewhere — even in our own country — might be lessened.
Hunger is, in fact, a problem on some Native American reservations and among the homeless despite the inspiring efforts of soup kitchens such as Someone Cares in Costa Mesa.
Along with the philanthropic value of periodic fasting, there are spiritual benefits, in particular, a heightened awareness of our utter dependence on food and drink ("…give us this day our daily bread…"). We must eat and we must depend on a chain of individuals: farmers, grocers and cooks (think of our mothers' countless home-cooked meals).
Fasting should also fill us with gratitude for our immense bounty in this nation, for this rich soil which keeps on giving.
Finally, there are the health benefits of fasting in a country where
For most who read this column, fasting can wait for another day. But the wisdom of the practice should be taken seriously.