A Fast That Feeds
I recently read Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s discussion of the ancient rabbinic practice of fasting from speaking. Some rabbis would go for periods of time where they would try to limit their speech or even avoid speaking altogether. Some did this for as long as forty days! They did this to both limit saying things that were inappropriate or not helpful and to help focus themselves on spiritual matters. Telushkin went on to say that in his house he and his wife adapted this practice in to having a “complaining fast.”
Every so often for a week they will avoid complaining about anything or anyone. He notes that this practice tends to make them both happier individuals. He reasons that while many people are generally unhappy unless something comes along to make them happy, it is better for us to be generally happy unless something comes along to make us unhappy. If we can adopt that attitude of being happy and then add a complaining fast to it we will find little reason to be unhappy. This reminds me of the old quote which probably didn’t come from Abraham Lincoln, but is attributed to him, that “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Next week is Holy Week. Would you consider joining me in a “complaining fast”? For this next week let us try not to complain about things we don’t like, politicians of the other party, our minor health problems, or how people treat us. Perhaps then Easter Sunday will be an even greater joy and the perfect capstone to a week of happiness! Truly, a complaining fast will be a fast that may actually nourish our lives and feed our faith.