When is it considered proper for a person to fast a taanis yochid [a personal fast day]?
I can’t tell you all the things, but sometimes a person did something wrong and in order to make him realize how wrong it was, he should feel obligated to fast a taanis. Now I personally would not say to fast a taanis. A man did a very big sin and called me up. He wanted me to tell him how to do teshuva. I told him he should learn Mesillas Yesharim ten times from cover to cover. He said, “Ten times?!” I said, “Yes, ten times. And don’t be in a hurry, go slowly.” That’s what I told him. Ten times Mesillas Yesharim is better than fasting a taanis yochid.
But sometimes a person who sinned is not willing to learn Mesillas Yesharim. And he needs something as a k’nas, a fine, to make him feel that he lost something. A day when you’re not eating should help you realize you lost something. You lost breakfast, you lost lunch, you lost something. And you’re sorry you did this sin that caused you to lose those meals. The truth is that a sin causes a loss of much more than a meal. But at least a meal is a mashal, so that you should know what you lost by the sin. So a taanis for a cheit, chalilah, is worth doing. Although it’s better, as I said, it’s better to learn Mesillas Yesharim a number of times; that’s the very best.
TAPE # E-220 (December 1999)