Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Eating Erev Yom Kippur

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Although Yom Kippur is certainly the most revered holiday in terms of its sanctity, Erev Yom Kippur, the day proceeding Yom Kippur, is actually quite significant in its own right. Giving increased amounts to charity, requesting forgiveness from our friends for any wrongs we may have committed, immersing in a mikva, as well as the Kapparot ceremony are just some of the items one must be sure to accomplish before the onset of the Holy Day. There is also an obligation which is in effect for the entire day on Erev Yom Kippur and that is….to eat.[1]

Click here to read moreIt is interesting to note that the source for the requirement to eat all day long Erev Yom Kippur is actually derived from the requirement to fast on Yom Kippur. The Torah states that we are “to afflict your soul on the ninth of the month in the evening”.[2] This statement is seemingly out of place considering that the date of Yom Kippur is the actually tenth of the month, not the ninth! It is from here that our sages derive that one who eats and drinks on the ninth and then fasts on the tenth is actually considered to have fasted both days.[3] There are a number of explanations offered as to why the mitzva of eating Erev Yom Kippur is not explicitly written in the Torah. Among them is a concern that had it been, some individuals might get carried away with the mitzva and continue eating right into the night, even after Yom Kippur had begun.[4]

There are a number of reasons for the requirement to eat extravagantly Erev Yom Kippur. Eating well the day before an arduous fast helps ensure that one will be able to complete the fast with no unwanted health concerns.[5] Nevertheless, obsessive eating is not recommended and will take away from the purpose of the fast.[6]There is no obligation, however, to ensure that one is feeling hungry over the fast.[7] Oddly enough, there is a view that the excessive eating of Erev Yom Kippur is actually intended to make the fasting of Yom Kippur more difficult![8]

While one might think otherwise, Yom Kippur is actually a very exciting and joyful day. It is none other than the day that God has chosen to forgive us for our sins. As such, the Erev Yom Kippur festive meals are intended to demonstrate our joy and celebration over the arrival of such an awesome day. Since Yom Kippur is a holiday in which we are unable to hold festive meals, we therefore hold the holiday meals the day before.[9] As such, the meals eaten Erev Yom Kippur have the status of "seudot mitzva" and are like all other Shabbat or holiday meals. According to this approach, even those who must eat on Yom Kippur are nevertheless required to eat elaborately on Erev Yom Kippur as well.

Although the general consensus is that the mitzva to eat Erev Yom Kippur applies only to the daytime hours, there are some authorities who insist that the mitzva actually begins the night before, making it a twenty-four hour eating marathon.[10] While a meal consisting of bread should be eaten at least once on Erev Yom Kippur, the mitzva of "eating" is ongoing throughout the entire day. All foods are included in the mitzva to eat.[11]

It is interesting to note that although eating Erev Yom Kippur is a mitzva, it is one of those mitzvot in which no blessing is recited prior to performing it. Among the explanations for this is because eating is an act which is not easily distinguishable as being done for the sake of a mitzva. Eating is routine, frequent, and meals are often held at the same time each day. As such, it is not clear to onlookers that when one eats, one is doing so solely in fulfillment of the mitzva to eat Erev Yom Kippur.[12] Women are equally obligated in the mitzva to eat Erev Yom Kippur.


[1] Marpeh L’nefesh 4:47 discusses all the details of this mitzva
[2] Vayikra 23:32
[3] Berachot 8b, Yoma 81b, Tzlach;Berachot 8b
[4] Taz O.C. 604
[5] Tur O.C. 604. Rashi;Berachot 8b,Yoma 81b
[6] Elya Rabba 563:1
[7] Kaf Hachaim 549:11, B'tzel Hachachma 2:48
[8] Shibolei Haleket 307
[9] Rabbeinu Yona;Sha'arei Teshuva 4:8
[10] Ran;Nedarim 63b
[11] Minchat Chinuch 313
[12]Cited in Piskei Teshuvot 604:1

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