Isaiah 58: 3-7 (Is this the fast I desire?)

3 Why, when we fasted, did You not see? When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed? Because on your fast day you see to your business and oppress all your laborers!

4 Because you fast in strife and contention, and you strike with a wicked fist! Your fasting today is not such as to make your voice heard on high.

5 Is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day when Adonai is favorable?

6 No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke to let the oppressed go free; to break off every yoke.

7 It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to ignore your own kin."

Discussion Questions

  1. What is Isaiah's critique of the people and how they are fasting? What kind of behavior would he prefer? What is the purpose of fasting, according to Isaiah?
  2. This excerpt from Isaiah is included in the Yom Kippur liturgy. How would you compare Rabbi Milton Grafman's sermon from Rosh Hashana 1963 to the Isaiah reading? Consider tone, content, mood, and timing. What kind of behavior is Rabbi Grafman critiquing? What kind of behavior is he encouraging from his congregants?
  3. Would you characterize Rabbi Grafman's sermon as "prophetic"? Why or why not?

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Isaiah 58: 3-7 (Is this the fast I desire?)." (Viewed on July 1, 2022) <>.


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