I did something today which may seem strange to most people. Yes, I fasted, but that isn't so strange to those on the "inside." What I mean is that while I did fast all the Orthodox Jews that I spoke to today looked on in approval, but when they offered a ride to Mincha and then later Maariv, they couldn't understand and looked in contempt at my lack of enthusiasm. Why would one fast and not daven?
"Hey, Orthoprax, did you daven Mincha yet?"
"Well, we're going to Landau's now. Want a ride?"
"No thanks. I'm good."
"Are you sure? You really should daven. It was just Rosh Hashanah."
"No thanks, really I'm good."
[Squinty-eye look] "Hmmm...suit yourself, but you really should daven."
Thanks for the tip, right? ;-)
Anyway, I got the same basic conversation for Maariv and then the guys came back for the bagels we had bought to break our fasts. So my friend (I'll call him Abe) comes and sits at the table next to me and says "There's really no point in fasting if you're not going to daven."
I say calmly, "Oh, is that right? I thought we fast in order to remind us of what happened on this day in history." Then I added, "Why did you fast today, Abe?"
"Oh, Gedaliah was killed," he responds.
"Who was Gedaliah? Who killed him? Why was he killed?"
"Um, he was the king of Israel, killed by the Babylonians..."
"No, Abe. Wrong."
"Eh, [he gets up to wash] it's more important that a person fasts and davens than to know the reason why."
I respond, getting a little upset, "Knowing why is the _only_ reason why we fast. That's the whole point."
I look around the table at all the frum college students sitting eating bagels and I ask, "Does anyone here know why we fasted today?"
I get little scraps of the story. "Gedaliah was killed by a Jew...he was a governor, not a king..." but nobody seems to have a real grasp of the story. So I start telling it, but as soon as I get into the roles of personalities like the King of Ammon, people are already uninterested. Typical.
Why do Jews fast today, indeed?