Asceticism in Judaism - Fasting

Fasting

Nevertheless, fasting among the Jews was resorted to in times of great distress. The Book of Esther, of late date, illustrates this for the period included in the Biblical canon. Rabbinical sources prove the growing tendency to abstain from drink and food whenever memories of disaster marked the days of the synagogal calendar, or instant danger threatened the community. In the scheme of the synagogue the one fast-day of the Bible received no less than twenty-two as companions (compare Fasting in Judaism).

Still, it may be doubted whether this multiplication of fast-days can be taken as a sign of an increased tendency to Asceticism. Probably the theory of Robertson Smith (The Religion of the Semites, p. 413) still holds good to a large extent in explanation of many of the fast-observances of later Judaism, as undoubtedly it does for the voluntary and occasional fast-days mentioned in the historical books of the Bible; namely, that Oriental fasting is merely a preparation for the eating of the sacrificial meal. The rabbinical injunction, not to eat too late a meal on the eve of the Sabbath-day, so as to enjoy all the more that of the Sabbath, tends to corroborate the theory. Perhaps this also underlies the rabbinical report that some examples of rabbinical piety fasted every Friday (in preparation for the Sabbath).

Read more about this topic:  Asceticism In Judaism

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