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Tenth of Tevet: Fasting III

Ahab and Jezebel are infamous for their evil and destructive influence. One of the most horrible of their deeds is the story of Naboth and his vineyard. (Kings I, Chapter 21): The vineyard was adjacent to Ahab’s palace and Ahab wanted Naboth to trade the property that had been in his family’s possession for generations for another for a better vineyard.  But Naboth said to Ahab, “Far be it from me before God that I should give you my ancestors’ heritage.”

Ahab was devastated. He lay down in his bed, and, very childlike, refused to eat. Jezebel promised her husband that she would handle the matter; “Arise, eat some food, and let your heart be. I shall present you with Naboth’s vineyard.”

Jezebel wrote scrolls in her husband’s name declaring a fast and invited Naboth to sit at the head of the people gathered for the fast. Two unscrupulous men falsely testified that  Naboth had cursed God and the king. Naboth was stoned to death. His property was given to the king, as is the law for any property of a man who rebels against the king.

Rashi (21:9) asks why did Jezebel arrange for a fast day as the setting for the false accusations? He answers that  people use a fast day to search for any mistakes they have made or sins they may have committed. Jezebel wanted to create the perfect setting for the “witnesses’ to have reason to come forward with their accusations against Naboth.

Rashi is describing a powerful scene of a fast in the court of such evil monarchs as Ahab and Jezebel.. People have gathered to fast because of some form of suffering such as a drought or war. Everyone in the community is using the fast to search within themselves to discover the cause of their current situation. These people may have been idol worshippers, but they continued to use a fast day, not to afflict themselves, but to create an environment conducive to self-examination.

A fast is a withdrawal from distraction. The mundane basics sidetrack us from focusing on introspection.

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