Don’t Orthodox Jews HAVE to fast on Yom Kippur?

Some Jews are commanded NOT TO FAST. Thus, the local Orthodox shul, Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, has sent out this reminder to their members several times in the last couple weeks.

Location for Medically Required Food and Nursing Mothers:
While the holiest day of the year involves five forms of physical restriction (see below for more information), for some, food and drink is medically required (and therefore constitutes the mitzvah Pikuach Nefesh, maintaining one’s life). We are making available the Mikvah attending room (in the short hallway out the back of the Main Sanctuary), for women who would like to leave medically required food and drink there before Yom Kippur. The Community Mikvah will also be open for nursing mothers. The room will remain open throughout Yom Kippur for eating and drinking in relative privacy. Men who are medically required to eat or drink on Yom Kippur can leave food or drink in the downstairs social hall fridge.

When it comes to medically required eating and drinking, the best way to consume food or drink on Yom Kippur is by eating less than a certain volume of food or drink at a specific time interval; the combination of these two factors is not considered halachically significant (known as Pachot Mik’Shiur). We will place information cards about this method in the Mikvah attending room, but remind people to first and foremost listen to their medical professionals and speak to Rabbi Albert for specific situations.

We are forbidden to endanger our lives. If your doctor has told you to take medication, to eat certain amounts at certain intervals, DO IT. This is not a time to get rigid and decide that you know more than the doctors and the rabbis.  If you are unable to fast, try other practices on Yom Kippur.  Look at these excellent suggestions from Rabbi Ruth Adar’s blog.

Be well.