Friday, August 05, 2005

"When The Month Of Av Enters, We Minimize Our Happiness"

A severe caffeine headache in the midst of a fast day makes it extremely difficult to be mindful of the underlying reasons why one is fasting. It is hard to concentrate on lofty thoughts while experiencing pain.

Perhaps the physical pain from headaches is meant to force us recall the national pain experienced with the loss of the Beis HaMikdash. How else can we truly relate to this event on personal level thousands of years later?

Starting today, Erev Rosh Chodesh Av, I am going to see if I can overcome my caffeine addiction. While experts advise those trying to quit caffeine to decrease their consumption gradually, I am going to stop obruptly. My goals in doing so are two-fold: First, it is an attempt to sensitize myself to the essence of this time period, coupling my pain my people's pain. Secondly, I am doing this as personal test of resolve which hopefully will help me understand exactly how caffeine affects me. I got the idea after experiencing painful headaches during the fast of the 17th of Tammuz and speaking with a collegue at work who told me that he sucessfully overcame his caffeine addiction after eight or nine days of severe headaches.

I will report on how my caffeine detox affects my dealings with others and how it affects my davening and Torah study. I am not planning to give up caffeine altogether, but I will be exploring how my mind functions without it until Rosh Hashanah.

Is there no small pleasure, no small indulgence we can forgo as a symbol of solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters in Israel? Is there nothing we can do on a regular basis to show we care about them?

(Rabbi Yissocher Frand)


At August 5, 2005 at 7:05:00 AM EDT, Blogger Pragmatician said...

Wow that's courageous, naturally I have no intake on a fast day, but the fast is so hard in general that I don't focus on the lack of caffeine, sugar or anything else.
Just the general feeling of "I hate fasting"!

My view on fastdays>

At August 5, 2005 at 9:41:00 AM EDT, Blogger Fat Asian Baby said...

the nature of serious caffeine withdrawal will most likely make moving your head at all, including davening, rather unpleasant. i admit to being narrowminded, but it's hard for me to imagine that the physical pain experienced from a chemical withdrawal is even appropriate to associate with or stand in for the psychic pain we are meant to experience or commemorate this month.

At August 5, 2005 at 9:53:00 AM EDT, Blogger torontopearl said...

...We may "minimize our happiness" in the month of Av, but mine had actually been maximized 8 years ago, when my daughter was born on the 13th of Av, which happened to be Shabbos Nachamu, too.

At August 5, 2005 at 10:28:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...


I wish you success in your endeavor - I'm interested in hearing how it goes!
(Maybe you can say beli neder, just to give the option to give it up in case it is overly distressing.)
Let's root for a celebratory Tisha B'Av in the Beis Hamikdash, free of all our addictions!

At August 5, 2005 at 10:40:00 AM EDT, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Minimizing happiness does not equal maximizing misery.

Proceed with caution.

At August 5, 2005 at 11:09:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thank you all for your thoughts as well as your words of encouragement or caution.

At August 7, 2005 at 6:27:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

Perhaps a better approach might involve a GRADUAL reduction in your caffein intake. For example, if you're used to 5 cups of coffee a day, reduce it to 2 cups immediately, and try to cut that down to one cup as you get closer to the fast. The day before, if possible, try not to drink ANY coffee.

Also, try during other times of the year to cut down. For example, perhaps on Shabbos you can skip coffee - or greatly reduce your intake - altogether!

Tzom Kal v'Mo'il, all the best!

At August 7, 2005 at 11:32:00 PM EDT, Blogger callieischatty said...

Top 10 Ways Jews Can Retaliate Against Presbyterian Divestment in Israel
by Jake Novak
10) Begin counter-boycott of Hellmann's Mayonnaise and Wonder Bread

9) Stop supporting all the Presbyterian comedians... oh wait, there aren't any!

8) Wear white shoes after Labor Day

7) Stop serving watercress sandwiches at Shabbat Kiddush

6) Replace Muzak in Jewish doctor's offices with Klezmer CD's

5) Secretly replace all references to John Calvin in Presbyterian doctrine with "Calvin Klein"

4) Initiate hostile takeover of L.L. Bean

3) Crash the next party at the country club

2) Water down the booze in junior's sippy cup

1) Let them do their own damn taxes!

The "Top 10" above was published in my Jewish Week column last month (May, 2005). And I did get some hate mail for it. Of course, I shrugged it off because if anyone doesn't see the humor in a church group that said nothing during the Holocaust deciding it can make moral pronouncements against Jews anywhere... than I don't see where you're going to see it. I'm no fan of moral relativisim, but if you're going to bash another group moral activities, check your own balance sheet first.

At August 8, 2005 at 12:50:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen an ad for a product called "Fastprin".Which is a delayed reaction time release capsule. It can be taken before the fast starts, and will last until the fast is over.It is supposed to prevent headaches. May you have an easy and meaningful fast. Sholom den Elchonon

At August 9, 2005 at 1:21:00 PM EDT, Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Believe it or not some people take caffeine suppositories. (Not me, thank G-d, i don't do caffeine).

Similar to the Rabbi Frand quote the Gemora in taanis says "Kdai hu Beit Elokeinu - the House Of Our
G-d" is at least worth missing out on washing etc, one time a year.

I recently heard an interesting drush on "mishenichnas Av mimaatin besimcha." What ever we minimize during Av, we do so, as we do all mitzvot - besimcha! (Mimaatin is done besimcha)


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