To the modern eye, the minor Jewish fast days would seem trivial and stupid, probably because they are. Not Yom Kippur when we're held accountable for our sins, nor Tisha B'Av when we commemorate the destruction of the two Temples - the double singular event that occurred on the same day and define modern Judaism, but Ta'anits like Tzom Gedaliah the day after Rosh Hashana ends to commemorate the assassination of a governor of Judah three millennia ago, or Shiva'Asar b'Tammuz, which on the one hand is the day Moses broke the two tablets. But that's not the reason we fast on Shiva-Asar b'Tammuz. The reason is that this is supposedly a day when terrible things keep happening in Judaism. It's not the day of the Temple's destruction but the daily sacrificial offering ceased to be brought because the walls of Jerusalem were breached! It's the day the Roman General Apostamus, my god, burned a Torah Scroll! It was the day an idol was erected in the Temple!
It's impossible to have any idea how significant or trivial these events seemed at the time, but with the distance of twenty-five hundred years, this all seems a bit much. If you affixed a fast day to every Jewish tragedy of that importance, when would Jews eat?
But Assarah B'Tevet's the stupidest. It's apparently not enough to have a fast day for the destruction of the Temple destroyed, we need a fast day too for when the walls of the city were breached. Fine enough. It also commemorates the two days before. Shmoneh b'Tammuz when the Bible was first translated into Greek, apparently thereby etoliating the Bible of its divine spirit emanating from the Hebrew original. That seems debatable, but one can understand why this would be a tragedy as it would strip Jews of their of sole dominion over their holy book and cause Christian dominion over them. But the kicker is Tisha b'Tammuz, of which the text of the Shulchan Aruch literally says "Something happened, but we do not know what it was."
The Jewish calendar frankly needs some updating. To have fast days for the assassination of Gedaliah and Apostatamus burning a Torah Scroll is seriously unprioritized when there's no fast for the Shoah or the Alhambra Decree.
But fast days result in a fate against which all Jewish mothers strenuously warn and fight against like a dybbuk at the door. Eat, you'll have low blood sugar." "You're just mad because you have low blood sugar." "I told you not to play sports or do your homework or give that presentation when your blood sugar is low!" The symptoms of the dreaded low blood sugar include cold sweating, dizziness and headache, rapid heartbeat, slurred speech, and muscle twitches. But while every Jewish mother secretly believes her child is about to die, none think it'll be from that. What they're really looking for is personality changes, confusion and irritability, anxiety and inability to concentrate, and to keep their children from these future-damaging symptoms, they're willing to tolerate an extra thirty or forty pounds on their growing boys, which causes them to dread that they've traded their children's long-term health for prospects at overachievement.
But on those fast days, Hashem unleashes the Holy Terror of Low Blood Sugar, children fighting, not understanding directions, interpreting every comment as a personal attack, striking at the dark heart of our insecurities as people and a people. Even for the non-Orthodox, there seem to be more food commercials on Yom Kippur than any other day of the year. Fast days are not meant to be pleasant, they're meant to be solemn - a remembrance that the world is not the pleasant place we hope, and by paying the price of our portion of happiness on those fast days, we will be that much more prepared when tragedy makes its presentation.
Unlike Shiva-Assar b'Tammuz, this one was mercifully brief, but it was on a Sunday. The kinder are all home with nothing to do, and Mama Freylik just has to get the kinder over thirteen to five-fifteen. Lots of games with all the kinder together, lots of singing, lots of promises that they'll have a great dinner. Rinah, seventeen and on the way to the Chuppah herself in a few months, is clearly tired, Avigail, fourteen and much too strong willed to have a husband at eighteen, is especially uncooperative today, Sasson is four and has her third bad cold in six months and again needs somebody to run out and get her medicine, Hephzibah is six months and particularly crying and colicky today, Yitzhak or Tzakhi, just barely Bar Mitzvah age, is throwing a ball around the house when she isn't looking, Naima is six and needs acknowledgement about how well behaved she is, Sasson is eight and always in trouble - today she's shouting at Naima for getting snot all over her, Tirtza is eleven and painfully shy so she needs Mameh to be a friend to her, Yuval is ten and always teasing and tormenting Tirtza, and if seven year old Zemirah doesn't stop singing soon Ori will throw his Streimel at her.
The only one she knows what to do with is Simcha, who has to be kept reading. The moment he stops he's going to snap at whoever is nearest to him and point out everything he thinks is wrong. So who can blame her that when he steps outside, she locks the door.
It's four o'clock and the Bethany had just come back to her house from twelve-hundred calorie meal at Mel's Drive-Inn with some girl friends from Church.
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