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Fast Days: Jeremiah 36: Fasting as Preparation

1 And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: 2 ‘Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. 3 It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way, and I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.’ {S}


4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah; and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which He had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book. 5 And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying: ‘I am detained, I cannot go into the house of the LORD; 6 therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the LORD’S house upon a fast-day; and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities. 7 It may be they will present their supplication before the LORD, and will return every one from his evil way; for great is the anger and the fury that the LORD hath pronounced against this people.’ 8 And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the LORD in the LORD’S house. {P}

9 Now it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the LORD, all the people in Jerusalem, and all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem. 10 Then did Baruch read in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the upper court, at the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house, in the ears of all the people. 11 And when Micaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all the words of the LORD, 12 he went down into the king’s house, into the scribe’s chamber; and, lo, all the princes sat there, even Elishama the scribe, and Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and Elnathan the son of Achbor, and Gemariah the son of Shaphan, and Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes. 13 Then Micaiah declared unto them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people. 14 Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, unto Baruch, saying: ‘Take in thy hand the roll wherein thou hast read in the ears of the people, and come.’ So Baruch the son of Neriah took the roll in his hand, and came unto them. 15 And they said unto him: ‘Sit down now, and read it in our ears.’ So Baruch read it in their ears. 16 Now it came to pass, when they had heard all the words, they turned in fear one toward another, and said unto Baruch: ‘We will surely tell the king of all these words.’

17 And they asked Baruch, saying: ‘Tell us now: How didst thou write all these words at his mouth?’ 18 Then Baruch answered them: ‘He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book.’ {S}

19 Then said the princes unto Baruch: ‘Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah, and let no man know where ye are.’ 20 And they went in to the king into the court; but they had deposited the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe; and they told all the words in the ears of the king.

21 So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll; and he took it out of the chamber of Elishama the scribe. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes that stood beside the king. 22 Now the king was sitting in the winter-house in the ninth month; and the brazier was burning before him. 23 And it came to pass, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. 24 Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words. 25 Moreover Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had entreated the king not to burn the roll; but he would not hear them. 26 And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet; but the LORD hid them.”

God instructed Jeremiah to read this scroll of Lamentations on a fast day, so that the  words will penetrate the hearts of the people, already fasting, vulnerable, and focused on all the upheaval around them, and they will, “Present their supplication before God, and will return every one from his evil way.” Their fasting will prepare them to hear Jeremiah’s words as they otherwise would not, and will move them to pray and do Teshuva.

This is fasting so that we can hear the words of the Torah and the prophets deep in our hearts so that the words will move us to pray and return to God. The fasting is to prepare ourselves for the Torah and Haftarah readings we will hear. The idea is, especially at Mincha, when we read before we pray, to hear the words and be moved to pray with heightened awareness and intense feelings.

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