Tenth of Tevet: Fasting II
(Samuel II, Chapter 12) David admitted his sin with Bathsheba to Nathan the prophet. Nathan assured David that his immediate acknowledgement of his sin and his willingness to accept responsibility moved God to commute David’s potential death sentence. However,
the son, who resulted from David’s sin with Bathsheba would die.
David fasted, cried and lay on the ground in mourning. He ignored his servant’s pleas to eat or even rise from the ground. The entire household was concerned for their beloved king. They were so concerned for David’s state that they hesitated to inform the king that the child had died: “Behold! If when the baby was alive we spoke to him but he would not listen to us, how can we tell him the baby has died – he will do something terrible!” David saw that his servants were whispering to themselves and David understood that the child had died. David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they answered, “He is dead.” David got up from the floor and bathed and anointed himself and changed his clothes, and he came to the House of God and prostrated himself. He then came to his house and, at his request, they served him food and he ate. His servants said to him, “What is this thing that you are doing? For the living baby you fasted and wept, and when the baby died you got up and ate a meal?” He said, “While the baby was still alive I fasted and cried, for I thought, ‘Who Knows? Perhaps God will show me favor and the baby will live.’ But now that he is dead why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?”
David fasted as long as he felt that there was something his fast could accomplish. He ended his fast as soon as he realized that there was nothing more he could do.
We do not fast over the past. We do not deprive ourselves now simply to give voice to suffering over a tragedy more than two thousand years old. We abstain from food and drink because there is something we can do! We can repair the sins that led to the tragedy we mark on each fast day.