Late in a summertime fast day, a palpable lethargy sets in - the dry mouth, the slow reaction time, and the feeling that there's really nothing good about the world. Makes you want to retreat into bed, close your eyes, and just float.
A little bit of suffering is good for you. Or so thought our rabbinic forebears, who liked to place fast days adjacent to joyous holidays. But the 17th of Tammuz is all alone, only the inauspicious start to the Three Weeks that precede Tish'ah Be'Av. No joy in sight.
Frankly, I relish a good fast. It makes me feel cleansed, like my body is purifying itself. OK, so the misery I could do without, but that's exactly the point - a fast is not to be enjoyed! Today is the day, according to the Babylonian Talmud, that the Romans breached the city walls of Jerusalem in 70 CE, three weeks before destroying the Temple itself. Not a happy occasion, to be sure.
So even while immersed in this challenge of will, of denying myself food and drink until nightfall, I am thinking about Jerusalem, both the earthly city and the heavenly one. I'll be there in a week; this day reminds me that in the Holy City, the past still walks with us in the present.
Tzom qal. Have an easy fast. Tomorrow will be more pure.