Food For the Soul
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a 26-hour fast from before sundown on Sunday, Sept 27, to nightfall on Monday, Sept. 28.
Normally we would spend our day in the synagogue but in these times many of us will be at home, observing by ourselves or with family. Either way, we abstain from eating, drinking, washing or anointing the body, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations.
On Yom Kippur we pray five prayers, corresponding to the five levels of the soul including “Yechida” which is the soul of Moshiach.
Prior to Yom Kippur it is customary to ask for and receive honey cake and to give charity. It is a mitzvah to eat and drink on the eve of Yom Kippur. Two meals are eaten, one in the morning, and one just prior to the onset of Yom Kippur. One should eat only light foods (such as plain cooked chicken and chicken soup) as the second meal. The holiday is ushered in by lighting candles (married women light at least two, and single girls light one). If you are sheltering in place in a male-only household, one of the guys should light candles for everyone.
On Yom Kippur, we not only make amends to G-d, we say “Sorry” to each other in the hopes of repairing relationships that were sidetracked or derailed by superficialities. Perhaps some people see apologies as an admission of weakness or defeat, but they’re actually the opposite. An apology is a sign of strength and love.
Adapted from the booklet “Experience the High Holidays” by the Chabad Lubavitch Youth Organization with information from Chabad.org
The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah, “Shabbat of Return.” The name derives from the Haftarah for this Shabbat, which opens with the words (Hosea 14:2), “Return O Israel unto the L-rd your G-d…” Occurring in the “Ten Days of Repentance” (see “Laws & Customs” for Tishrei 3), it is a most auspicious time to rectify the failings and missed opportunities of the past and positively influence the coming year. The master Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (“Ari”) taught that the seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (which will always include one Sunday, one Monday, etc.) correspond to the seven days of the week. The Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur includes within itself all Sundays of the year; the Monday embodies all Mondays, and so on. Shabbat Shuvah is thus the juncture in time at which we are empowered to influence every Shabbat of our year.
Mind Over Matter
You are a soul
“I know of no magic way to make the fast easy,” writes Rabbi Aron Moss. “But fasting can certainly be a spiritual experience. Rather than trying to ignore the body’s hunger, you can actually use it to bring you closer to your soul.
When the sounds from your stomach start to drown out the Yom Kippur prayers, try this meditation:
Is a plate of food all that I amount to? The answer is: if your body is all there is, then yes, you are what you eat. But in truth, your body is not all there is to you. You are not just a body. You are a soul. On Yom Kippur, become an observer of the body from the point of view of your soul. Watch your body hunger, pity it for its weakness and resolve that in the year to come, you will not make your body and its temporal pleasures the be-all-and-end-all of your life. Rather, you will care for your body so it can serve as a vehicle of goodness, to achieve the mission that your soul was sent to this world to fulfill.”
The Third Holy Temple
If Moshiach should appear during the Ten Days of Penitence, it is conceivable that people should eat and drink on Yom Kippur, if it falls during the seven days’ dedication of the Third Beis HaMikdash (Holy Temple). This was the case with the First Beis HaMikdash, and the people of that time ate and drank on Yom Kippur. How much more would this be the case with the Third Beis HaMikdash, to which the Zohar relates the verse, “The glory of this latter House shall be greater than that of the first.” It is reasonable to assume that its greater glory will be apparent not only (as with the Second Beis HaMikdash ) in its structure and its duration, but also in its dedication — which at the very least would equal that of the First Beis HaMikdash. Chabad.org
Have I got a Story
Zaidy’s Yom Kippur
I stand in shul, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, trying to ignore the groans of my unhappy stomach. I flip through the machzor to see how many pages remain until the end of the service. My mind begins to wander; I am transported back to another Yom Kippur, years ago.
In my daydream I am a child again, and my grandparents have come to spend the High Holidays with my family. My grandfather is in his early seventies, although with his long white beard and bushy black eyebrows, to me he looks at least a hundred years old. That Yom Kippur I tried hard to stay in shul instead of running outside to play with my friends. I sit in my seat listening intently and trying to follow along. Suddenly, my ears perk up to the sound of a familiar voice ringing out—it is an old voice, but powerful and steady. It is my zaidy (grandfather); he is saying the mourner’s kaddish for his father, whose yahrtzeit (date of passing) is on Yom Kippur.
My thoughts shift to another Yom Kippur in Communist Russia. Rabbi Aryeh Leib Kaplan has just arranged a minyan in a private house in Ch’ili, after being exiled there for the illegal activities of spreading Jewish teaching and observance in his hometown of Kiev. The ever-watchful KGB, infuriated at Aryeh Leib’s persistence in his “crimes” even in his place of exile, send a goon squad to beat him up on his way home from the clandestine Yom Kippur prayer group. Aryeh Leib’s friend is beaten to unconsciousness, and Aryeh Leib just manages to drag himself to the nearest Jewish family to tell them about his injured friend before he collapses and dies. He leaves a young widow and four orphans. One of them is Zaidy.
Yet another Yom Kippur flashes through my mind. There’s a picture of Zaidy, but he’s young and strong. He is surrounded by ruthless criminals in a dingy prison cell, locked up like his father for the heinous crime of practicing Judaism in Communist Russia. In prison, each inmate receives one piece of daily bread. Zaidy knows that he must save that bread for after the fast, or he will die of starvation. However, if the bread isn’t stuffed into his mouth the moment it is handed to him, it will be grabbed by one of many greedy hands. Zaidy approaches “The Chief” of the cell—a hardened criminal whom all of the other inmates fear and respect. Zaidy presents his dilemma, and miraculously The Chief decides to help. The Chief puts the bread on a high ledge, and warns the inmates that he’ll kill anyone who touches it. Many hungry eyes stare at the bread, but no one touches it.
Later, Zaidy needs to know when the fast is over, but there is only one small window high up on the wall of the cell, and there is no way to tell the time. Zaidy approaches The Chief again and explains his dilemma: he needs to know when it is completely dark in order to break his fast. The Chief gives orders, and a human pyramid is formed—one criminal on the shoulders of another, until they reach the window. The inmates repeat this pyramid every couple of minutes, reporting on what they see, until Zaidy confirms that the fast is over.
The voice of the cantor breaks through my reverie and brings me back to my open machzor. As I resume my prayer, I once more think of Zaidy and my great-grandfather. I feel them smiling down on me.
Zaidy, Moshe Binyamin Kaplan, of blessed memory, passed away on the 13th of Tammuz 5765 (2005), at the age of 87. The story of his Yom Kippur in prison is just one of many of his heroic acts in order to keep Judaism in Communist Russia.