Yom Kippur is widely considered to be one of the most significant Jewish holidays. In the year of 1313 B.C.E., 2448 of the Jewish calendar, the Jewish people sinned by worshiping an idol, a golden calf. Moses climbed up Mount Sinai and asked G-d for forgiveness. After climbing the mountain two separate times, for 40 days each, Moses returned to the Israelites on the 10th of Tishrei. On this day, G-d forgave the Israelites, and the day became known as the Day of Atonement.
Yom Kippur is considered to be the Day of Atonement and occurs on the 10th day of Tishrei each year. As part of observance, many Jews fast in an attempt to redeem themselves for any sins they may have committed in the previous year. In order to achieve the desired redemption, it is customary for Jews to apologize to those whom they have wronged during the year in the days leading up to Yom Kippur. The holiday is considered to be a Sabbath, so Jews usually fast for around 25 hours (sundown to sundown) in order to practice self-denial.
Fasting throughout the whole holiday poses to be very difficult for many Jews. However, not all Jews are required to fast on Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, those who are advised not to fast by doctors are told not to fast by the Torah. Rabbi Eliyahu Silberberg of Chabad interprets the Torah as saying that if you do not fast on Yom Kippur and you are sick, you are achieving the same Mitzvah as someone who fasts on Yom Kippur and is healthy. According to Rabbi David Lau, pregnant and nursing women should fast unless the woman is going into labor; Rabbi Lau also mentions that women do not have to fast if they have given birth within three days of Yom Kippur.
Additionally, once a boy or girl has had their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, they are required to fast for the whole 25 hours. Fasting can prove to be difficult because humans can only survive three days without water and food.
Here at The RamPage, we want to assist students and readers in a complete and healthy fast, and therefore have composed a guide on the subject.
5 Step Guide to an Easy Yom Kippur Fast
1. Drink at least 2.5 liters (11 cups) of water the day before:
It is crucial to stay hydrated the day prior to the fast. You can live for weeks without consuming food, however one can only survive a few days without water. Our bodies need macro-nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins. However, water is also extremely crucial for many different reasons–not only does staying hydrated transport nutrients to our bodies’ cells, it also helps eliminate waste from our lungs, skin, and colon. Since during a fast Jews are not exposed to nutrients, getting our bodies hydrated the day before helps us maintain its daily functions without food the next day.
2. Reducing caffeine intake days prior to fasting:
Caffeine withdrawal can occur to people who are “coffee regulars”, and can include minor to severe headaches. To prepare yourself for Yom Kippur and a no-caffeine day, it is recommended to reduce your caffeine intake for a few days prior to the fasting day in order to regulate your body. Caffeine is also dehydrating, and will therefore cause water loss in people’s bodies during the fast.
3. Avoid salty foods the day before:
Many kosher foods are very high in salt such as pickles, cold cuts, cheese, canned fish, salad dressing, and tomato sauces. Salt causes someone to feel thirsty even though that person might have the necessary amount of water. The more salt one eats, the more water one feels the desire to drink.
4. Eat small meals throughout the day prior:
“Grazing” is the way our bodies were meant to eat. Eating small meals throughout the day allow our bodies to digest and process our foods healthier and more efficiently, leaving us with plentiful energy. Eating three large meals throughout the day make it difficult for our bodies to process the nutrients and cause tiredness.
5. Stay positive!
Remember that you can get through the fast! According to Motivation for Dreamers, “mind over matter” plays a big role in fasting, so remember to think you are full, and then you’ll be full! It is paramount to maintain a positive attitude and also keep in mind that you are fasting for G-d and to practice self denial.
Example meals to eat the day before the fast:
Low sodium vegetable soup
Baked sweet potato fries
Cholent (bean and legume soup)