Video: You're My Glory / Adon HaKavod אדון הכבוד

Hey friends, I recorded this just the other week. It's a old Messianic medley I just recently learned on the guitar. Enjoy!

Why did the early Christians fast Wednesdays and Fridays?


The Didache, an early Christian text dated around the same time as the book of Revelation, writes that followers of Jesus should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays:

Do not fast with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth days [of the week], but rather fast on the fourth and sixth days.”

Didache 8:1

A Messianic friend read this and asked, “Is anyone aware of what the context behind this verse is? Perhaps a Jewish practice of weekly fasts on certain weekdays?”

Toby Janicki from First Fruits of Zion gives a reasonable answer in his excellent Messianic commentary on the Didache:


"The Didache instructs that followers of Messiah are to fast on Wednesday and Friday instead of on Monday and Thursday. These days are offered as sectarian alternatives to normative Jewish practice. It is possible that at certain times and places the fast days of Monday and Thursday were dominated by individuals looking to make a show of their righteousness. Fasting on the alternative days of Wednesday and Friday further safeguarded against making fasting an ostentatious show of piety, because no one in the broader Jewish community would suspect anyone of fasting then. This reference in Didache 8:1 is the oldest reference to the Christian tradition of fasting on Wednesday and Friday today. The Apostolic Constitutions renders this, “Do you either fast the entire five days, or on the fourth day of the week, and on the day of the Preparation.”

The Didache does not appear to be introducing a new practice. Instead, it seems to report one already established among believers. At some early stage the leadership of the believing community may have had a deliberate decision to switch the weekly fast days to those mentioned here. […]

But why Wednesday and Friday? To compare the Didache with the Talmud, we may say the clause in question is like a Mishna, and that its explanatory Gemara is to be found in the Apostolic Constitutions. The Apostolic Constitutions states:

‘Because on the fourth day the condemnation went out against the Lord, Judas then promising to betray him for money; and you must fast on the preparation day, because on that day the Lord suffered the death of the cross under Pontius Pilate.’"

In a nutshell, Janicki writes that it was a common Jewish practice to fast on Monday and Thursday. However, some made a show of it. The early believing community decided to distance themselves from performative fasting and moved the fasting days to coincide with Wednesday and Friday, the days of the week when Yeshua was condemned and executed.

Of course, today Christians don’t have any set fasting days or observances, at least in my corner of the Christian world. This is mostly true for modern religious Jews too: while fasting on certain observances is common (Yom Kippur, 9th of Av, etc.), fasting every Monday and Thursday is generally not observed.

My family and I fast on Yom Kippur, and that’s it. (I also have fasted on the 9th of Av in past years. But I haven’t stuck with that practice.)

Should we be fasting twice a week?

It got me thinking what Christianity might look like if we returned to this kind of intense, physical devotion. What would it look like if churches across the US – heck, billions of believers across the world – fasted twice a week?

I suspect we’d have fewer Christians but more disciples. That is, we’d scare away people who aren’t committed: fair weather fans. But those that remain would be committed and serious about their faith and practice.

Or, I could be way off. Maybe we’d have a bunch of religious showmen who piously looked the part from all that fasting… 😅

And what would please God? Does God want us fasting twice a week, or was this “just for that time and season”? We live in an age of abundance, where few people are starved for food. Maybe fasting helped cope with food scarcity? On the other hand, "that was for a different time" feels like punting; any practice we don't like or don't want to do could be dismissed in that way.

Does our lack of fasting indicate a lack of devotion to God? Maybe in some ways it does.

Janicki does point out that the Gospels touch on this subject, indicating that the disciples didn’t fast, but that Yeshua expected them to after his ascension:

Our Master Yeshua expected his disciples to practice fasting, and as we pointed out above, he gave them instructions for doing so. In response to the question, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’ Yeshua answered, ‘Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.’ (Mark 2:18-20) As long as the disciples had Yeshua with them, they were tasting the joy of the Messianic Era, and it would not be appropriate for them to frequently fast. However, once he left them, they indeed would fast once again while they were waiting for his second coming.

I don’t have an answer. But I do suspect if I personally spent less time on my phone and more time fasting (and prayer and Scripture), I’d be closer to God. Maybe that's true for you too, dear reader.

Atomic Habits, Part I: Want to change your outcomes in life? Fix your identity

Painting of a man thinking about his identity. Courtesy of OpenAI's Dall-E

I've been reading Atomic Habits, a book that's opened my eyes to how people's lives are dictated by their habits. 

The more good habits you have -- eating right, exercising, learning a new language, reading books, writing a journal, etc. -- the better your outcomes in life. You'll be healthier, more mentally sound, financially stable, fit, sociable, interesting, joyful.

Conversely, the more bad habits you have -- drinking, smoking, nail biting, fast food, watching porn, binging Netflix, frivolous spending -- the worse off you are. Sick, tired, emotionally drained, anxious, empty, depressed, broke.

The book gives a new framing to an old problem of how to kick bad habits and stick to good habits. In it contains a unique lesson for believers. The reframing of this old problem has a life-influencing message for parents. It has broader implications for society. I don't think the author intended any of those meanings explicitly, yet there they were. I want to pass them on to you in this post, dear Kineti readers.

The old problem every person on earth has faced

First, what is the old problem? It's, "How can I stop doing [bad thing] and stick to [good thing]?"

How can I stop binge eating and lose weight?

How can I stop wasting so much time on TikTok and instead do something useful with my life?

How can I stop smoking and get good health?

etc.

That's the old problem. 

We have an urge to better ourselves. We have an idea where we're falling short in life. We try to fix it -- lose 20lbs, start eating vegetables every day, cut social media, go to the gym 3 times a week -- but these habits quickly fail.

Anecdote: I saw this firsthand a few years ago. When the new year arrived, I resolved to go to the gym once a week. In January, the gym was packed! By February, it was half empty, and by March, it was nearly abandoned. Everyone resolved to do good, but their resolution quickly failed with time.

Reframing the old problem

Atomic Habits says the reason our goals often fail is we are too focused on the outcome. Lose 20lbs. Quit smoking. etc. We must reframe the problem to one of identity:

  1. To change our outcomes, we must first change our habits. One cannot expect to reach a different outcome (lose 20lbs) while living the same way (eating fast food 3x a week).
  2. For the new habits to stick, we must change our identity.
The three ingredients here -- outcomes, habits, identity -- are like layers of an onion:

A picture of an onion with 3 layers. Outermost layer is labelled "outcomes", next layer is "habits", and the innermost layer is "identity"
Atomic Habits shows that a great way to change outcomes is by changing your habits. To effectively change your habits, you change your identity.

Everybody focuses on the outer layer: outcomes. Stop smoking. Stop drinking. Get fit. Read more. So we start a new habit -- go to the gym every week -- but we have trouble sticking to good habits and kicking bad ones.

Our habits return to old behavior as our motivation naturally wanes over time. Our resolutions fail and we return to our old ways.

The author explains a key to changing all this is going back another layer: identity.

Who are you? Are you a smoker? Are you a binge eater? A porn watcher? Is that who you are? That's identity. 

Identity is the key to changing your habits and sticking to them.

He refers to several studies for support. One study in particular struck me: a group of smokers who wanted to quit smoking was broken into two groups. The first group was told anytime they were offered a cigarette, they must respond, "No thanks, I'm trying to quit." The second group was told to respond, "No thanks, I'm not a smoker."

Can you guess which group did better at quitting?

The group that identified as non-smokers did far better than the first group. Their self-identity changed their habits. "I am not a smoker, so I will not be going on a smoke break. That's not who I am."

Want to stop doing X? Be the kind of person who doesn't do X.

Want to stop being late to everything? Be the kind of person who leaves 15 minutes early. Shape new habits accordingly: set your alarm to leave earlier. Make sure your car has gas before it's time to leave. Prepare your clothes the night before. Prepare a quick breakfast you can heat and eat in the morning. Best yet, your motivation to stick with these habits will last longer because you're not the kind of person who's always late. That's not you. 

As your consistently keep these habits, they go auto-pilot mode: you'll do them almost without thinking, as routine as getting dressed in the morning. And when you do those habits consistently, you become the person of your identity and your outcomes change. You're no longer the person who's always late. Victory.

It's not magic, but it's powerful. Identity is powerful. The author gives several such example studies where identity is a major component to changing habits and thus producing better outcomes in life.

I've begun to apply these in my own life, with some success: 

  • I want to read the Bible every morning. 
  • I want to stop browsing my phone while in bed when I should be sleeping. 
  • I want to stop scrolling social media in the morning when I need to get up for work. 
  • I want to stop biting my fingernails. 
  • I want to learn Hebrew. 
  • I want to write more (hence this post!)
  • I want to practice guitar more.

So, I shape my identity accordingly: I'm the kind of person who takes the Bible seriously. I'm the kind of person who doesn't miss Hebrew lessons. I'm the kind of person who is serious about improving his guitar skill. Now I've been shaping my habits accordingly, and it's going...good. I think I'll see some good fruit from all this.

Every time I carry out my habit of Bible reading, Hebrew learning, writing, is a vote for the kind of person I want to be. (And if I miss a lesson, skip reading? Well, that's a vote in the other direction.)

This key to fixing problems in your life by shaping your identity made me consider the importance of shaping the identity of our kids. 

Are you telling your kids they're stupid? Ugly? Dumb? "Clearly not a math major!" Suck at science? Calling them names when they do bad stuff? Swearing at them? This reinforces a negative identity in them at a time when their identity is in its earliest, most pliable stage. That identity sticks with them for life, friends.

There's a lesson to parents in there. I'll cover this in Part II soon.

Thanks for reading, folks.