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Yom Kippur: Fasting and Health

I just had a serious medical procedure (on Rosh Hashana, ironically, but that's when it could be scheduled). I am on a new medication and on a greatly increased dose of one of my accustomed medications. And I am a diabetic.

I will be consuming a small amount of food today and some water, not fasting entirely, as is the commandment.

Rabbi Ruth Adar, the "Coffee Shop Rabbi" blogger, addresses this; see If I Can’t Fast, How Can I Observe Yom Kippur? (from 2013) and Approaching Yom Kippur (from yesterday).

I still feel guilty about it. But that's tradition too. :-\

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 23rd, 2015 04:11 pm (UTC)
Best wishes and stay well.
Sep. 23rd, 2015 04:52 pm (UTC)
I'm sure you're not required to fast if you are ill?
Sep. 23rd, 2015 05:33 pm (UTC)

Yes, that's what the rabbi discusses in her columns. But it doesn't feel right emotionally for me, even if I am *allowed* to eat.

Edited at 2015-09-23 05:34 pm (UTC)
Sep. 23rd, 2015 11:54 pm (UTC)
You have a very good heart. It's very tough to eat or drink when others can't. Fasting is a big part of my cultural religion (extremely strict Catholicism), and there's a health exception there, too.

The suggestions from the rabbi are similar to the ones that I've practiced. I think that faith, day in and day out, can bring a lot of good into the world. Even more so than a short, focused, holy day practice of faith.

Both are good, though, and sometimes a short really concentrated 'giving up'/abstaining can be life changing. Several of my uncles used Lent as a way to stop drinking, just for a little while, and that support allowed them to try it again, for longer.

Obviously, I'm not Jewish, but I think that the time we spend struggling with these ideas, feeling guilty even, they're....important. I guess maybe that's old fashioned, but I think it's good to grapple with these thoughts. What is plenty, what is hunger, what is want, what is need... Life is a complicated process, and I think reflecting on the emotions, the experience, can be both beautiful and powerful.
Sep. 25th, 2015 02:17 am (UTC)
Not eating when you know others can't is probably part of it! The other part is that even for someone as introverted as myself, the whole shared experience of fasting and praying together all day is very immersive, and I don't feel as involved if I'm not doing the whole thing.

I did bring in a bag of non-perishables for the congregation's food drive, at least.

It is important to think about these things. One of the reasons I'm so committed to my employer is the large amount of time we spend on ethics training and discussion. It makes me feel good about the organization even when I'm cross with them for other reasons.
Sep. 23rd, 2015 07:14 pm (UTC)
I'm not fasting either, also for health reasons. And I'm not taking the day off work, because I already missed most of September and I don't feel right canceling on my clients again when I don't absolutely have to.

I don't feel guilty, though. I think both those choices are supported in Judaism to some extent or another. (I'm assuming the "see clients" falls under "don't get so hung up on observing rules that you fail to do good in the world.")
Sep. 25th, 2015 01:39 am (UTC)

Well, and I have no issue with that, because of the work you do. Even if your patients are not suicidal, they still need you.

There are, of course, the famous verses from Isaiah that get read on Yom Kippur, where the people of Israel are complaining about how they are fasting and prostrating themselves and yet God isn't answering:

Is such the fast that I have chosen? The day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the fetters of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?

Is it not to give your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover them, and that you never hide yourself from your own kin ... ?

So yes, I would say that your work meets the standard for Isaiah's idea of a proper fast!

Sep. 24th, 2015 01:41 am (UTC)
When I was Muslim, we had the choice of making up fast days or feeding a hungry person for a day. Do you have any of those options in Judaism?
Sep. 25th, 2015 01:54 am (UTC)

There isn't any formal set of alternate activities, but fasting on Yom Kippur is a mitzvah (the word means both "good deed" and "commandment"), and it's understood that no one can always do every mitzvah, because we are human and fallible. If you look at some of the other responses to my post, you'll see that rachelmanija, who is a PTSD therapist, worked with her patients on Yom Kippur, and certainly most of the Jews I know would accept that as something that needed doing more than having her fast.

My main issue with not fasting is really, in some ways, a self-indulgence. There's a very particular sort of exhilaration that comes with fasting along with the congregation and attending the service right up to the formal end, where everyone is essentially crossing the finish line together, and the shofar is sounded one last time.

And so if I'm not fasting, it doesn't feel quite the same way.

But really, that's a rather self-indulgent reason to want to fast!

(I like your Haring icon!)

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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