A message from Rabbi Sandy Rosenstein: Tips for a Successful Yom Kippur

 

Yom Kippur is a fast day, but not everyone can or should fast. If you must eat and/or drink, please bring your MEAT-FREE, NON-SMELLY, snacks and your water bottle, all properly labeled with you name, to the conference room adjacent to the sanctuary. It is where we have our large community meals.

When you need to eat or drink, quietly exit the sanctuary, refresh yourself – there are very nice restrooms in the conference room area – and then quietly return to your seat and resume your davening. NO FOOD OR LIQUIDS WILL BE ALLOWED IN THE SANCTUARY DURING ANY PART OF KOL NIDRE or YOM KIPPUR.

This halachically appropriate system has been implemented in an effort to avoid fainting spells and/or calls to 911which prove embarrassing to the congregant who falls ill. This system also alleviates the very serious disruption in mid-day services when people who must eat would otherwise go home and then not return for the rest of the day.

Please make every effort to come on time and stay for the entire set of services. We will begin at 6:15pm sharp for Kol Nidre. Bring your tallit. It’s traditional to wear white and not wear leather. We will begin Yom Kippur morning services at 10 am sharp on Wednesday! We will be taking a break around 1:00 pm and then will reconvene at 5pm for the rest of the day. Yizkor will be very close to 5pm, so don’t be late if you need to say kaddish. We will then move into the afternoon services, Ne’ila and finally the break fast meal once we see three stars in the sky.

For Yizkor feel free to bring a photo, piece of jewelry, tallit, kippah or any personal remembrance of a loved one for whom you are saying kaddish. Those items help us feel more connected to our loved ones in the Olam haBah.

A brief guide to Yom Kippur’s laws and practices from Rabbi Haim Ovadia

The guiding rule in observing Yom Kippur is maintaining a balance between respecting the sanctity of the day and one’s physical health.

We must ask for forgiveness and reconcile with those we have hurt. If applicable, payments should be made. A token apology will not suffice.

Whether we repent for transgressions of laws between us and God, or between us and others, the steps of Teshuvah should be followed: recognition of the wrongdoing, genuine repentance, a commitment to never repeat the act.

The one being apologized to should be willing to forgive, but if the apology is not sincere it can be rejected, especially when dealing with a habitual offender. If you see a pattern of offenses and genuine apologies from the same person, it is better to keep a distance in the future, even after forgiving.

Confession on Mincha of Yom Kippur Eve, as well as on Yom Kippur itself, should be focused on things we are aware of and want to repent for. It is better to say your personal prayer than use the alphabetical lists printed in the Machzor, which should be viewed as a reminder of what we might have done.

Prohibitions of Yom Kippur
Five actions are mentioned in Halakha as forbidden on Yom Kippur, besides the laws of Shabbat which apply to Yom Kippur as well: Eating and drinking; Applying oils; Washing; Wearing leather shoes; Having marital relationships.
Of the five, only eating and drinking are punishable, since they are the only ones with basis in the Torah. The rest are instituted by the rabbis and supported by biblical texts, and it is therefore easier to allow exceptions in observing them.

Water
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the fast is not drinking, and quite often people push themselves to the limit and put their lives at risk. One example is that of R. Yisrael of Ruzhyn, who resisted the urge to drink on Yom Kippur, even against his doctor’s advice, and passed away shortly afterwards at the age of 54.[i] R. Yaakov Haggiz (1620-1674) writes that it is possible that by biblical law one is not forbidden to drink water, since it is not nutritious. We can rely on his opinion for cases of need, as shall be explained below.[ii]

Medical Conditions
If there are clear doctor’s orders, they should be followed. Attempting extreme piety and fasting against doctor’s orders is a transgression.
Expectant and nursing mothers can sip water all day in small quantities (less than 3 fl. oz.) and in intervals of no less than five minutes.
Pills taken on a regular basis can be taken with less than 3 fl. oz. of water. The same applies for those who need to take pills for severe headaches, including caffeine pills.
If one feels the need to eat or drink because of physical conditions, water and food can be consumed in small quantities (less than 3 fl. oz. and 2 oz., respectively). It is recommended to use high-energy foods. They should be consumed in intervals of no less than five minutes.
If one feels that following these rules will not suffice, and might cause him damage, he should eat and drink regularly until he is no longer at risk.

Using mouthwash or brushing teeth is allowed on Yom Kippur, and maybe even mandatory because of dignity and respect towards others.
Fasting before bar or bat Mitzvah is just a custom and children should not be pushed beyond their limits, or made to feel guilty if they “broke” the fast.
Parents and caregivers should practice great caution during Yom Kippur, since the children or adults under their care might feel too proud or religiously committed to ask for food or water.

Other Prohibitions
Washing is forbidden only when for pleasure, and permitted when it is for cleanliness. In antiquity only hands soiled with dirt or worse were considered unclean, but today, with our heightened hygiene awareness, one can wash hands regularly with soap when needed.[iii]

Washing the face is allowed for those who otherwise will not feel dignified or relaxed.[iv] The prohibition of applying oils to the skin refers only to actions done for pleasure, and it is therefore allowed to use medicinal creams, lip balm, Vaseline, deodorants of all kinds, perfume, or eau de cologne.

If one who has only leather shoes and cannot walk barefoot because of danger, or discomfort, he can wear these shoes.
Similarly, if leather shoes are essential to provide protection from rain or snow, or for orthopedic needs, they may be used.[v] Abstinence is limited to intimate relationships, and does not include other forms of affection.

The prayers of Yom Yom Kippur are peppered with many poems and supplications, many of which are difficult to understand even for Hebrew speakers, and others to which a modern reader might not easily relate. The time we spend in the synagogue on Yom Kippur should be meaningful and purposeful, and we should avoid reciting prayers by rote or if we do not relate to them.

The essential components of the prayers are the Shema and the Amidah, and one can choose to read only those parts in each prayer. Such was the custom of the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, who would spend hours reciting those parts.

The purpose of Yom Yom Kippur is to prompt us to acknowledge our mistakes and repent. If this is achieved by tuning in to and following the poems and Selihot, that is wonderful, and if not, it is better to use the time in the synagogue or home for reflection and contemplation.
We should use whatever means available and appropriate to reflect on mending our mistakes and cultivating an aspiration for spiritual growth.

There is a custom of starting to build the Sukkah immediately after Yom Kippur, but it is of course not mandatory. It is a symbolic act which shows that we are eager to observe the Mitzvoth, but it should not put anyone in a predicament. The sukkah can be built before Yom Kippur, or, if one is too tired after the fast, it can be built later.

May we all have an easy and meaningful Yom Kippur, one in which we will be able to reconcile, forgive, and propel ourselves to new spiritual heights.

G’mar chatima Tovah,
Rabbi Sandy Rosenstein