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Are there any traditional foods to eat before the Yom Kippur Fast?


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It is a mitzvah to eat and drink heartily on Erev Yom Kippur. Our Sages write: The Torah (Leviticus 23:32) states: And you shall afflict your soul on the ninth of the month in the evening.

Do we fast on the ninth? We fast only on the tenth! This comes to teach us that all who eat and drink on the ninth, and fast on the tenth, are considered by Scripture as if they had fasted on both the ninth and the tenth.

The reason why eating on the ninth is considered so great a deed that it is equivalent to having fasted, is that by doing so, we show our joy that the time for our atonement has arrived. By extension we thus show that we are concerned with our sins.

On other Festivals we partake of fixed meals as a means of expressing our happiness in having the opportunity to fulfill mitzvot. This joy is in itself a source of merit. Since we cannot partake of a festival meal on Yom Kippur, we do so on the day before Yom Kippur instead. The festive meal on Erev Yom Kippur provides us with the physical strength needed on Yom Kippur to focus ourselves on prayer, supplication, and reflection that will lead us to teshuvah.

It is customary to eat fish at the morning meal on Erev Yom Kippur.

The Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 11) recounts:

“R. Tanchuma taught: It once happened in Rome on Erev Yom Kippur that a Jewish tailor went to the market to buy fish. There was only one fish available, but there were two buyers: the tailor and the servant of the Roman governor. Each offered a progressively larger sum until the price reached twelve dinar, which the tailor paid.”

When the Roman governor asked the tailor why he was willing to spend that much money on a fish, he responded “Sir! We have but one day during which all the sins that we commit throughout the year are atoned for. Shall we not honor that day when it comes?” The governor replied: “Since you have explained your behavior, you may go.” A miracle happened for this tailor and a jewel was discovered inside the fish which supported him for quite some time.

We do not however eat like gluttons on this day, instead we eat many small meals as the day goes on.

In some chassidic circles there is a custom to eat ‘Lekach’ honey cake on erev Yom Kippur too.

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About Rabbi Lawrence


Originally from London, England, Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff graduated with honors in political science from Manchester University. After working for MTV in news production, and moonlighting as a stand-up comedian, he traveled to study in Israel and then Monsey to receive his rabbinical smicha from Yeshiva Ohr Somayach. Rabbi Lawrence is available for speaking engagements, just email us at info@joyofkosher.com to reach him. Rabbi Lawrence works for Birthright Israel in New York as their educational director, leading trips to Israel three times annually for young professionals. He also serves on the faculty of Stern College for Women in the Judaic Studies department. He lives in Monsey New York with his wife Anita and their five children. For more about Rabbi Lawrence click on these links - jeconline The Jewish Home: Where Kindness Begins Health and Healing in Judaism" on eating right A video on Tisha be'av...really on Shalom Bayit My book "Jew Got Questions" is now available!




One Response to Are there any traditional foods to eat before the Yom Kippur Fast?

  1. avatar says: Nechama

    Also Kreplach.
    1) The filling is concealed-so too our sins should be concealed.
    2) Kreplach = Kaper Lach. We should receive atonement.

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