Tenth of Tevet: Fasting
Samuel I, Chapter 7: God made it absolutely clear that He was present in Israel and that His Holy Ark reflected God’s Glory:
The Philistines painfully experienced and acknowledged the Ark’s power. They were too terrified to keep it and they returned the captured Ark with many gifts, to Israel, to Beit Shemesh.. The Ark’s power devastated and frightened the disrespectful inhabitants of Beit Shemesh and they in turn asked the people of Kiriath-Jearim to take it away. This was an important steps in Israel’s recovery from their terrible defeat at the hands of the Philistines, the destruction of the Tabernacle in Shiloh and the loss of Eli, the High Priest. They turned to Samuel, the young prophet, for guidance as they felt themselves drawn after God.
Samuel gathered the people in Mizpah where he would pray for them. “They drew water and poured it out before God and fasted on that day.”
The verse tells us that they did not begin with a fast, but rather, by drawing water and pouring it out before God. The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni #103, & Targum Yonatan on the verse) explain that they poured out their hearts before God in Teshuva, so that they could restore their shattered relationship. Rashi understands the symbolic pouring as an expression of humility before God, as if to say, “we are as water under Your feet.”
A fast does not lead to Teshuva as much as it expresses that process of restoring our relationship with God has already begun. Fasting is an act of humility: “We have nothing without You.”