I think it’s a bit silly to wish someone a “safe fast”, or a “tzom kal”, as is commonly the practice. If it’s really easy, then what’s the point? I hope that the fast is just the right kind of heartbreaking reminder of what we are mourning and remembering.
I think that the intention of “easy” comes from a place of not wanting a fellow to suffer and furthermore that they stay safe. So, these days, I wish fellow fasters a “safe and meaningful fast”. That’s really what I want for myself, anyways.
A friend of mine in California sent me a text today, “From Tehinnat ha-Nashim le-Vinyan ha-Mikdash- The Supplications of the Mothers for the Rebuilding of the Temple” by Dr. Yael Levine. I’d never seen anything like it.
Levine, who holds a Ph.D. in Talmud from Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, explains in the introduction that she “composed the literary work in the style of aggadic midrashim, in which biblical and post-biblical female figures, through the end of the Second Temple period, beseech God to rebuild the Temple.” The work is based on themes which appear in a variety of Jewish textual sources.
I enjoyed reading the excerpts but was not entirely sure what to make of them. Despite the tremendous scholarship and creativity involved in composing this work, it still leaves women in the same place they’ve been through the ages – a place that is accessible only by reading between the lines of sacred text.
Throughout the ages, it’s been women who have kept the Jewish people together. From the birth of the Jewish people as slaves in Egypt, when the women kept their faith as the men were prepared to throw it away along with their male newborns according to Pharoah’s decree, to Queen Esther in Purim and Yael in Chanukah. At several critical moments in Jewish history, women maintained the Jewish integrity. In our times, too, it its women who generally hold the religious character together for a family (see statistics cited in an earlier blog post), and perhaps as we recognize this, our leaders, male and female, will eventually steer us back on to the course of receiving the Third Temple.
*Note: I incorrectly initially posted that the article excerpts were from an upcoming book. The piece was printed in Tehinnat ha-Nashim le-Vinyan ha-Mikdash, Eked: 1996.