A FAST FIT FOR A KING by Rabbi Allen S. Maller
Once upon a time a king went out to hunt on a hot October day. After a few hours he felt very hot and tired, so he decided to stop for lunch. His servants unpacked a large picnic basket they had brought with them and set up a table.
Now the king didn’t want to eat together with his servants, nor did he want to eat alone so he told one of his servants to find someone to come and eat lunch with the king. The servant walked out to a nearby road, saw a 13-year old boy walking along, and told him that the king wanted to see him.
The boy was very surprised, and a little frightened, but he went with the king’s servant. When they arrived at the picnic, the table had been set with all kinds of wonderful foods and drinks. The king told the boy to sit down next to him and eat. The boy sat down next to the king, but he did not eat.
After a few minutes the king said, “Why are you not eating? My food is prepared by the best cook in the kingdom. It is the best tasting food in the country. Doesn’t it look good to you”
“It looks great, and I am sure it is the best food I will ever taste,” answered the boy, “but I can’t eat it.”
“Did you just finish eating lunch? If so you do not have to eat a whole meal, just have some of these great deserts” said the king.
The boy replied, “Actually I did not eat lunch today, but I cannot eat anything, not even one of those really good looking cookies.”
The king was surprised and asked, “Are you sick? Is that why you have lost your appetite?”
“No,” said the boy, “I am not sick and I haven’t lost my appetite.”
“Then why are you not hungry?” asked the king.
“But I am hungry” said the boy. “I haven’t eaten breakfast or lunch and I am very, very hungry.”
The king looked bewildered and almost shouted, “Then why don’t you eat since you are hungry and the food is delicious?”
“Because today is Yom Kippur, and I am 13 years old.” The boy replied.
“What is Yom Kippur and what has it got to do with being 13 years old?”
“Yom Kippur is a Jewish holiday when all faithful Jews who are 13 years or older, are commanded by God to fast. We are not to eat or drink anything from sunset to sunset, so I have not eaten since dinner last night. This is the first year that I am responsible to do the whole fast. Before I became 13 I only had to fast half a day, and that was not so hard. All I did was skip breakfast and not eat any snacks till lunch. I knew that fasting all day on Yom Kippur would be a test of my will power, and of my commitment to be a faithful Jew, but I never thought I would be tempted to eat a meal fit for a king.”
The king was very impressed by what the boy said. He was even more impressed by the boy’s self-discipline and commitment to be a faithful Jew. So the king told the boy to come to the palace the next day, along with his entire family, and have dinner with the king and the queen. And that is what they did.
The two families became friendly and continued to have dinner at the palace each year. One year the king also tried to fast on Yom Kippur, but he was only able to fast until 4pm when he gave up, saying I guess if you don’t start when you are young it is a lot harder than it looks.
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