In a time when fasting can be a political statement or a fitness trend, you might wonder about its enduring value as a spiritual ritual. To learn more, we asked people who fast on Yom Kippur what they get out of it. Our modest sample yielded folks who are interested only in a meaningful personal experience, unrelated to why anybody else fasts. For these people, the act of fasting on Yom Kippur is a choice that has nothing to do with contemporary exigencies.
Israel Police have been holding talks with Israeli Arab representatives in bid to diffuse tensions ahead of Yom Kippur, after the burning of an Upper-Galilee mosque earlier this week. Police hope that calm will be restored in time for Yom Kippur on Saturday.
Breaking the fast has its own set of traditions. Ashkenazim usually break the fast with something salty, like herring, because they believe fish restores salt lost by the body while fasting. Herring also was the cheapest fish in Eastern Europe, where the custom originated.
Twice a year, many synagogues find themselves dealing with a wonderful but very practical problem: how to handle the huge numbers of people who show up for the High Holy Days and don’t fit in the sanctuary.
For more than 35 years, Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock existed without a rabbi. No longer.
For most adults, the central experience of Yom Kippur is fasting. By abstaining from food and drink, we exercise control over our bodies and do not give in to our most basic impulses. This makes it pretty easy to feel the “affliction” that the Torah mandates.
On his way to converting to Christianity, philosopher Franz Rosenzweig attended Yom Kippur services and was so moved that he decided to remain Jewish. One look at the most famous prayer for the occasion makes it hard to believe that he did not abandon Judaism all the quicker.
When I looked around I saw a packed, spiritually moved house of Jews, many who looked a lot like me: Chuck Taylor sneakers, thick plastic glasses, the curly hair that always has reminded me of my family's story.
"Not eating is not suffering," he said, "it's elevating ourselves to a state of transcendence. The fast, on Yom Kippur, reminds us how little material we really need; that we can do with less meat, with less bread, with less of everything."
Yael Rabin didn't feel any symptoms until it was too late, but if she had, she would have had Jewish law on her side in breaking her fast.
This year Yom Kippur begins on Friday night and continues until sundown on Saturday. Since many families do not cook on Shabbat, I planned a menu that will solve the problem.
My earliest High Holiday memory goes back to about age 7. It was the night before Yom Kippur and my parents had gone off to the synagogue, leaving my 10-year-old brother and me with a babysitter. I forgot that I wasn't supposed to eat anything that night, went into the kitchen, got on a chair to get a banana from the top of the refrigerator, peeled it halfway down and put it into my mouth.
My brother shouted, "You can't do that!"
This week a friend confessed to me his problem with fasting on Tisha B'av. My friend is Orthodox and Israeli -- an alumnus of one of the elite hesder yeshivas -- and he felt that it would be wrong for him to fast this year on Tisha B'Av.
"I started fasting for half a day on Yom Kippur since I was in first grade," said 7-year-old Erin Faigin nonchalantly.
Although most American Jews break the Yom Kippur fast with bagels and lox, there is no reason why the menu has to be limited to what has become for many people, everyday fare, the equivalent of Jewish fast food.
Tisha B'Av, the fast day commemorating the destructions of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem 2,500 and 2,000 years ago, respectively, doesn't rank up there with most celebrated Jewish holidays.
In the waning hours of Yom Kippur, the last rays of sun cast long shadows through the stained-glass windows. It is time for "Ne'ila," the final prayer in a day filled with prayer, when the gates on high, opened especially wide for this day, begin their final closing.
An expert at Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center hasinvaluable advice for your Yom Kippur fast.
An expert at Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center has invaluable advice for your Yom Kippur fast.