Anyone who doesn’t think that food is integral to religion ought to take a look at the newsletters of most worship centers. If it isn’t a church supper, it’s an ice cream social. If it isn’t a vegetarian langar, it’s a kosher kitchen.
However, there comes the time in most religions when fasting is in order.
Fasting has been defined as “the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time.” It has been a vital part of these (and other) religions: Islam (Ramadan); Judaism (Yom Kippur); Christianity (Lent); Bahai (Nineteen Day Fast); Buddhism (Zhai); Mormonism (Fast Sunday); Hinduism (Maha Shivaratri); and Jainism (Paryushana).
There are numerous Biblical accounts of fasting. Deuteronomy 9:7-21 tells us that Moses fasted completely for forty days and forty nights – not just once, but back-to-back twice. His first fast occurred immediately before receiving the Ten Commandments – his second occurred right afterwards. 1 Kings 19:8 tells us that Elijah
also fasted for forty days and nights while approaching “Horeb the mount of God.”
As detailed in 2 Samuel 12:15-25, King David fasted with the hope of saving the life of his and Bathsheba’s child. When their son nevertheless died, David broke this fast. Prophets such as Joel and Jonah advocated fasting in order to avert God’s judgment. Saul (Paul) fasted completely for three days after his road-to-Damascus conversion. 2 Chronicles 20:3 speaks of King Jehoshaphat’s victory fast. Matthew 4:2 and Luke 4:2 both note
the 40 days/40 nights desert fast of Jesus.
Forty was a special Biblical number. It rained for forty days and nights during the great flood – the Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness – and Nineveh was given forty days to repent. Forty has often gone hand-in-hand with spiritual quest and struggle – as has fasting.
Did you know…
There are two fasting centers in the Woodstock NY area: Birchcreek Health and Weight Loss Retreat and
The Copperhood Retreat & Spa.