WHY FAST ON YOM KIPPUR?
Yom Kippur Montreal Times
Light candles Tuesday October 4 at 6:10 pm
Fast ends Wednesday evening at 7:11 pm
First a bit of humor, albeit a shtikel black: One little yid asks his friend, “How was your Rosh Hashanah?” The second little yid responds: “I’ll know next year”. Not much to add here.
I posed a question to Rabbi Google about Yom Kippur. Why do we have to fast? What’s the point? We get tired, have that caffeine headache, dream about lunch around 1:00 pm and generally feel blah. Plus, by the end of the day it’s very hard to concentrate on any davening. Believe it or not, I got a few very good responses.
The answer that most spoke to me was that fasting gives us the opportunity to learn a lot about ourselves. Before I read the rest of the that answer I thought I already know myself. I know that I will be tired and hungry on Yom Kippur. I kept reading.
We all consist of a body – the animal soul and a second soul called the G-dly soul. These two parts of our being have very different needs. The body pursues physical gratification – like coffee in the morning - and the soul pursues the connection with G‑d, purpose, and meaningful life – the lofty stuff.
And as we all can see the body definitely wins the battle over the G-dly soul as when our physical needs are not met. We become cranky and irritable and pretty quickly take care of our needs. Not really a fair playing field.
Along comes Yom Kippur and levels that field. For one day a year the soul is set free from the bonds of the physical.
It’s as though G-d has pity on our spiritual soul. He commands us not to provide the body with any of its needs, and as a result, we are free to focus exclusively on the needs of our spiritual soul. What? You don’t feel your soul being satiated? Well, it is.
The question is how do we feel our soul being fed? I will illustrate via a teaching I learned many, many years ago.
When we daven, we are easily distracted both by our minds and what is around us. On Yom Kippur, there’s nothing to distract us except our hunger and thirst. And herein lies the teaching:
For five minutes concentrate on what you are saying. On the words. On your own soul. Know that within that feeling of being uncomfortable, something unique is happening. You are connecting to the part of you that makes you a Jew. Whether you know it or not - it’s happening.
You are connecting to our ancestors who died simply because they were Jewish.
You are connecting to a Jewish woman who perished in the Holocaust and is unable to fast any longer. You are fasting for her.
The very essence of the day atones when we fast.
But all of this happens only if you fast.
Believe me when I say that I have been there and done that. 30 years ago by 4:00 pm as I was preparing food for after the fast I was nibbling on the goodies, well before the fast ended. I had no clue why I was fasting nor what this day represented and as such, it had little meaning in my life other than being an annoyance.
And as I didn’t know, Hashem forgave me. But then I found out. As you who are reading this are now finding out.
So if you never really did the entire fast, perhaps this is the year to start. You will be feeding your G-dly, spiritual soul for the year.
And on this holiest day of the year, you will be part of the unbroken chain of Jewish people who gave their lives so that we can fast.
As a Jewish woman, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Have an easy and meaningful fast.