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Fasting within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam

Yom Kippur is one of the Jewish High Holy Days, called the Day of Atonement. It is both fast and feast, as is Ramadan. The fasting precedes the feasting in both traditions. Both are designed to remind people that everything ultimately comes from God, that all is hallowed to God, and that the people of the faith must always strive to be in right relationship to God and to each other. Within Judaism, the rituals and procedures are laid out for the people within the Torah. This provides the guidance for the way to live by the Law which allows the observant Jew to exist in appropriate relationship to God. Jewish law does not impose austerity on individuals, as some Christian ascetic practices do, but provides for the properly ordered and ritual observance of Jewish life. For Yom Kippur, the emphasis is on remembering all of one's sins and omissions regarding God and fellow human beings, while also remembering that God will forgive, and has forgiven His people throughout the centuries (Sanders, 1972; Smith, 1991).

There is more diversity within Christianity than within Judaism or Islam, and that is reflected in the ritual practice of fasting. There is no universallyhonored celebration like Ramadan or Yom Kippur in the Christian religion. While Catholics or the Orthodox may have their times for fasting, Protestants have little official connection to that early Christian and Jewish practice. Essentially, the higher the church in Christianity, the more likely there is a formal incorporation of days of fasting.

In the early life of the church, great asceticism was associated with the desert fathers and desert mothers who were considered to be the exemplary holy men and holy women. Fasting, too, has been associated with virgin martyrs, and with mortification of the flesh in the Catholic tradition, particularly during the Mid

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