Yeheskel, together with the Jewish community forced into Babylonian exile, received news of the destruction of Jerusalem: "In the 12th year of our exile, on the fifth day of the 10th month, a fugitive came to me from Jerusalem and reported, 'The city has fallen' " (Yeheskel 33, verse 21). The Babylonian Talmud in Rosh Hashanah tractate 18B even purports that the fast should be held on the fifth of Tevet and not on the 10th: "And they equated receipt of the report of the destruction with that of Jerusalem's burning."Normally, fast days almost never come on Fridays. I'd actually thought it was a halacha that you couldn't fast right before Shabbat -- and, in some cases, it really is; other minor fast days, like the Fast of Esther, get moved to Thursday or Sunday when they fall out on Friday. But Tevet is an exception, if a rare one (the last time this happened was 14 years ago). The reason is that the Tenth of Tevet is described as "עצם היום הזה ('the very day')," according to Yeheskel himself (who we like to call Ezekiel).
My latest Jewish nightmare came yesterday afternoon, via my father-in-law. At the end of a totally unrelated email, as a sort of throwaway P.S., he wrote: "Have an easy fast and spare a thought for us who have to wait till after 9pm to break it."
Now, he lives in Australia, where (as you might know) it's summer right now -- meaning that the sun sets later. So, where a fast day in America might end at 5 p.m., there it's going to go way into the night. Yesterday, I was sort of upset and totally spazzing, and only the good graces of our good Editorial Fellow Jeremy Moses kept me alive. "Want to go out to lunch?" he said.
We did. To an amazingly luscious, colorful, and totally explode-our-stomachs-huge Indian buffet. Jeremy did two trips; I did three. Whereupon we shlepped back to work, stuffed ourselves into our chairs (I barely fit) and I read the email from my father-in-law.
And I felt my stomach retch. I feared of tasting that delicious lunch all over again. How could I have forgotten a fast day?!
Of course, you already know the moral. Part 1: Yesterday wasn't a fast day, it's today. Part 2: Australia is something like 16 hours ahead of us. My father-in-law emailed me at about 4 a.m. (which, for him, is already mid-morning). And I'm still not perfect, but I'm working on it. We all deserve a second chance. Even if it happens in that Groundhog Day-like way of experiencing the same day twice, courtesy of Australian time.