Before the Fast, Something to Slow Down and to Think About

Written by Rabbi David Shamsi

A student once asked Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, founder of the Mussar movement, a school of thought that focuses on perfecting one’s character traits, what mystical intention he should have when putting on his Tallit every morning.  Rabbi Yisrael told him that when he puts his Tallit on every morning, he should have the mystical intention not to whip the guy in back of him in the face.

Although as Jews we are commanded to perform many Mitzvoth between us and Hashem, we must not fulfill them at the expense of other peoples’ wellbeing.  This is particularly important to keep in mind when it comes to those Mitzvoth that may make us cranky and irritable, such as the fast of Tisha BeAv.  Just because we are fasting does not give us an excuse to complain, be rude, or angry.  We need to fulfill this Mitzvah – as well as all other Mitzvoth- the way Hashem wants us to:  with true care for others.  This Tisha BeAv may all merit holding back from food and drink, but not good character traits.

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