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The Pleasure of Fasting on Yom Kippur

On Yom Kippur we do not eat or drink, afflicting ourselves with five different types of affliction. On the other hand, the Torah refers to Yom Kippur as “Shabbat Shabbaton,[1]” the Sabbath of all Sabbaths. As Shabbat is a day of pleasure, this makes Yom Kippur a day of pleasure of all pleasures. How can a day of affliction, referred to in the Torah as the day upon which “you shall afflict your souls[2],” be a day of pleasure of pleasures?

In Psalms 33:19 it is written, “To enliven them with famine.” There is a certain type of hunger that fosters vitality. Although hunger generally makes a person weak and apathetic, on Yom Kippur we receive vitality, joy and pleasure of pleasures from the fast itself.

There are two days of the year in which we fast the entire day, 25 hours, from just before sundown until after sundown on the following day: Tisha B’Av, the day that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and Yom Kippur – one day in the year that God commanded us to fast, calling it the “Shabbat of Shabbats.”

The great tzaddikim said that even if we had not been commanded to fast on these two days, we would nonetheless not eat on them. On Tisha B’Av, when we mourn the destruction of the Temple and the exile and dispersal of the Nation of Israel, who can eat? And on Yom Kippur, who needs to eat? On a day like this, aglow with heavenly light, when we are likened to angels, when we wear white and pray five different prayers – who needs to eat? Food is superfluous! Yom Kippur is an entirely spiritual day, it is all Godly.

May we merit a Yom Kippur like this, and to cling to God throughout the year – and merit the Mashiach and the true and complete redemption!

[1] Leviticus 23:32

[2] ibid

Photo by Alejandra Parejo on Unsplash

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