The prophet Isaiah asks (58:6–7):
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the fetters of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover them, and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh?
If we are to “loose the fetters of wickedness”, what might our fasting have to do with Darfur?
To date, of the 1,686 published posts, only a dozen articles on the jCarrot mention “fasting”. Indeed, perhaps not surprisingly most of the articles on the jCarrot deal with eating more than not eating. Nonetheless, not-eating is a very Jewish way of approaching food. There are a variety of explanations that anthropologists and others offer for fasting. Perhaps the most accepted in classic Jewish circles is from Talmud Bavli Berachot 17a where fasting is compared to sacrifice: an offering up of our own blood and fat. Few of us remember our parents telling us to finish all the food on our plates because “children in Europe are starving.” This is parental advice from another generation. However, children all over the world continue to starve. Our finishing every carrot and pea on our plates won’t cause them not to starve, but there are ways that we can use our food to call attention to their plight. So, it is a bit sad that no more than 4 articles on the jCarrot mention Darfur (one of which encourages supporting the Jewish World Watch Solar Project to protect and empower the women of Darfur).
Darfur is “durn far” away.
Its geographical distance and our many other concerns conspire to push the genocide happening there further back on the stove. Few of us still wear our green plastic bracelets reminding us to “Save Darfur” and “Not On My Watch”. So, Ruth Messinger of AJWS and Rabbi David Saperstein of the RAC decided to call attention to the ongoing starvation by continuing the “water only” fast initiated by Mia Farrow.
Darfur Fast for Life is asking the Obama administration to ensure the return of 13 humanitarian aid agencies that were expelled from Sudan on March 5, following the International Criminal Court’s issuance of an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The group’s website also directs visitors to an April 30 letter to President Barack Obama from the Enough Project, the Save Darfur Coalition, and the Genocide Intervention Network containing detailed policy and strategic recommendations. The letter, President Obama and Sudan: A Blueprint for Peace, asks for commencement of a formal Darfur peace process; full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the governments of southern Sudan and Khartoum; and negotiations leading to agreements for peace in Chad and eastern Sudan.
To end his fast R. Saperstein invited rabbis and cantors from all the religious movements to join him by refraining from all food on 26 Sivan: from sundown Wednesday June 17 till sundown Thursday June 18.
Fasting Religious Leaders
I was among more than 80 rabbis and cantors from all over the world who participated. Those who know me understand that this is not a difficult task. I enjoy food and do what I can to make my eating meaningful. Even so, while I would hardly count as a hunger artist, I can easily go without food and often forget to eat a meal. So, many might ask, if I am not starving myself in public, what is gained by fasting for Darfur? Indeed. Therefore this posting. I often do wear the green bracelet and oddly enough, I am not aware of any lapel buttons produced by the Jewish community using Jewish imagery and calling for an end to the genocide in Darfur.
Is there anything more…?
Whenever you are on a call with a service representative from any company, and, at the end of the call he or she asks:
Is there anything else I can do for you?
Yes, since you ask, please encourage President Obama to do even more than President Bush did to stop the genocide in Darfur. The phone number is: 202−456−1111. Please leave a message.
You will likely receive one or another of the following responses:
- painful silence [the service rep does not even know what Darfur is]
- uncomfortable laughter [the service rep knows about Darfur but is so surprised and embarrased by your request that the best s/he can do is laugh]
- understanding consent [the service rep knows and understands what is involved and may actually follow through].
In any one of these cases you have done well. You have raised awareness of the situation in Darfur with someone for whom it has most likely not been on the front burner.
And I ask you to join others in spending some of your time focusing your attention on a problem far away, and over which you have little control. Make your eating and your not eating as meaningful as possible.
This may not be the fast, but it is certainly a worthy one.