As for what you write concerning your conduct to fast on Mondays and Thursdays until midday: This is utterly inappropriate in my eyes, for this is not the way of Chassidus. Instead of afflicting the body, you should afflict the bestial soul.Note that here the Rebbe does mention Iskafya in eating in the sense of refraining from delicacies, and only negates Iskafya in eating that involves fasting.
In other words, you should not diminish your bodily health, as you are doing by refraining from eating or drinking to the extent necessary for your health. Rather, you should substitute this with afflicting the bestial soul: Abstain from indulging your desires in eating and drinking [i.e., eating unnecessarily], from idle chatter, never mind from slight gossip or any other form of forbidden speech. [One can also afflict oneself through positive actions, such us] adhering to the Mitzvah of loving your fellow Jew as yourself even with regard to a person whom it appears to you has not treated you lovingly, or has even harmed you or insulted you, and so on and so forth.
Behaviors such as these are sometimes even more difficult to bring oneself to do than fasting from eating and drinking [and thus bring one to even greater self-purification]. Moreover, they do not weaken one’s health and thus they do not detract from one’s ability to engage in one’s required study portions in Torah and fulfill Mitzvos with extra care.
Igros Kodesh, Vol. 12, p. 379.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
The real Iskafya
In an earlier post we discussed the idea of Iskafya (self-restraint) through actions that do not deprive the physical body. The Rebbe describes this same idea and develops it further in the following letter to one who sought to purify himself of sin through fasting: