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What if I can't fast on Yom Kippur?  How can I still find meaning in the day?

Not every Jewish adult is required to fast. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are exempt. People with medical conditions that require the consumption of food (diabetics for example) also are exempt. Due to the priority of Pikuach Nefesh (the commandment to preserve life), for people in these circumstances, it's not only permissible to eat - it's required.

Still, it's important to find ways to make Yom Kippur special if you cannot fast. Here are a few ideas:

  • Try not to eat sumptuous meals - eat what you need to, and not much more.
  • Be sensitive to those who are fasting by offering to eat and drink privately.
  • Try to eliminate other distractions (internet, television, etc.) to better focus on the themes of the day.

We wish all of you a meaningful day; may you be sealed for a good year!

Why are there times during Yom Kippur services when we beat our chests?

On Yom Kippur, it is customary to (lightly) hit our hearts with a fist every time we recite the sins during the Vidui and Al Chet prayers.

Why? Our hearts are said to be responsible for our emotions and, more importantly, what we do with our emotions. Often, when we misstep, it's because we are not channeling our emotions in a proper way, leading us to disrespect others and ourselves.

And since Jewish prayer is communal, by doing this in full view of the congregation, we are setting an example to others around us to show proper humility during this sacred time.

"The entire world is a very narrow bridge - the key is to not be afraid." -Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav

Why should I ask to be forgiven for sins on Yom Kippur I haven't done? Isn't that disingenuous?

Surely, each of us individually have not done all the sins listed in our mahzor (High Holiday prayer-book) on Yom Kippur. But there are a couple of reasons why we refer to them anyway:

  • Jewish prayer is communal, and we bear communal responsibility for the missteps in our society. This is why almost all of our prayers, and confessions, are listed in the plural.
  • It's always possible we've forgotten about a mistake we've made, and by asking for forgiveness for the long list of sins, we're covered in case there are mistakes we've made without realizing it.

"The entire world is a very narrow bridge - the key is to not be afraid." -Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav

Mon, October 21 2019 22 Tishrei 5780