Which is the fast…?

[cross post­ed at the Jew and the Car­rot and at the Reli­gious Action Cen­ter of Reform Judaism].

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.

Meaningful Non-Eating

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.

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1 Response to Which is the fast…?

  1. MSS says:

    Wor­thy indeed. Thanks for call­ing atten­tion to the eas­i­ly for­got­ten cri­sis…

    A cou­ple of prac­ti­cal ques­tions (to which I do not claim to have an answer): Is Sudan being dis­mem­bered? And would that be a good thing?

    The com­pre­hen­sive peace deal with south­ern Sudan includes a ref­er­en­dum on seces­sion due for 2011.

    I have no idea whether the seces­sion of the South would be good for Dar­fur or not. I would guess not. But it will hap­pen, if the deal is enforced. (No way will south­ern­ers vote to stay in Sudan.)

    Should Dar­furi­ans have their own state? Maybe, but how to get there? Beats me.

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