Sunday, September 16, 2018

Yom Kippur Fasting, Only if Doctor Approves

At yesterday's pre-Yom Kippur shiur, class/talk, in the neighborhood we were taught a Mishna about the basic laws of the holiest day in the Jewish Year. It begins by saying that eating and drinking are forbidden, as are bathing, oiling the skin and wearing leather shoes. A bit later, it lists the exceptions.

Considering that most everyone in the room was of what we'll call senior citizens or close to it, the exceptions for medical reasons was the topic many discussed while leaving. Actually, the first example of someone who could eat on Yom Kippur was a pregnant woman who craves some food she smells. The instructions are that she eat, until her soul calms down.

After that a few medical conditions are described, though not in modern terms. The "cure" in all cases is to eat/drink until the person seems recovered.

Nowadays, eating on Yom Kippur is usually permitted in advance for people who are prescribed certain medications, which should not be taken on an empty stomach. Since I live near the local synagogue, a neighbor has left food in my house for Yom Kippur eating. One year, before lighting the pre-Yom Kippur candles, I set up my fridge lights as or Shabbat, so I could open it without turning on the light. At the time I felt a bit foolish, since we don't need food on Yom Kippur, thank Gd, bli eyin haraa. But that year a neighbor unexpectedly needed to eat something for medical reasons, and I was able to serve her, even though unplanned.

These are the big questions for most:
  • Whom do we ask about the possible dangers of fasting when suffering certain medical conditions? 
  • Under what circumstance are we permitted or even required to eat on Yom Kippur?
Generally one is supposed to consult with a rabbi on matters of Jewish Law, but how much real medical knowledge does your rabbi have? Even doctors have specialties and patients are referred to specific doctors to treat different conditions. There are rabbis who recommend that the questioner consult with their doctor rather than making what is actually a medical decision. That is wisest and safest. 

Remember that Judaism promotes life, not endangering oneself. The fasting on Yom Kippur is important, but  it's not the essence of the day. The essence, the aim of Yom Kippur is our Teshuva, Repentance.

One of the reasons I make a Rosh Hashana "Fruit Head" is for a Healthy New Year

2 comments:

Mr. Cohen said...

This illustrates why the Jewish people need
doctors who are also Torah scholars,
or Torah scholars who are also doctors.

=============================================
Midrash Tehillim for Psalm 27, Paragraph 4 of 7:

Our Rabbis interpreted this Bible verse (Tehillim, chapter 27, verse 1):

[G*D is] MY LIGHT on Rosh Hashanah and MY SALVATION on Yom Kippur.

=============================================
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Instead, visit these web sites:

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Batya said...

True