The Basics of Yom Kippur

The Basics of Yom Kippur





What are “angels?” Angels are completely spiritual beings, whose sole focus is to serve their Creator.

On Yom Kippur, every Jew becomes like an angel. As the Maharal of Prague explains:


“All of the mitzvot that God commanded us on [Yom Kippur] are designed to remove, as much as possible, a person’s relationship to physicality, until he is completely like an angel.”

Just as angels (so to speak) stand upright, so too, we spend most of Yom Kippur standing in the synagogue. And just as angels (so to speak) wear white, so too we are accustomed to wearing white on Yom Kippur. Just as angels do not eat or drink, so too, we do not eat or drink.





There are five areas of physical involvement which we remove ourselves from on Yom Kippur. They are:

  1. Eating and Drinking
  2. Washing
  3. Applying oils or lotions to the skin
  4. Marital Relations
  5. Wearing Leather Shoes

Throughout the year, many people spend their days focusing on food, work, superficial material possessions (symbolized by shoes) and superficial pleasures (symbolized by anointing). On Yom Kippur, we restore our priorities to what really counts in life.

As Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler writes:


“On Yom Kippur, the power of the evil inclination is muted. Therefore, one’s yearning for spiritual elevation reasserts itself, after having lain dormant as a result of sin’s deadening effect on the soul. This rejuvenation of purpose entitles a person to special consideration and forgiveness.”





Following the Golden Calf, Moses pleaded with God to forgive the people. Finally on Yom Kippur, atonement was achieved and Moses brought the second set of Tablets down from Mount Sinai.

From that day forward, every Yom Kippur has carried with it a special power to cleanse the mistakes of Jews (both individually and collectively) and to wipe the slate clean.

Though while Yom Kippur atones for transgressions against God, this does not include wrongs committed against other human beings. It is, therefore, the universal Jewish custom – some time before Yom Kippur — to apologize and seek forgiveness from any friends, relative, or acquaintances whom we may have harmed or insulted over the past year.





The Yom Kippur fast begins at sundown and extends 25 hours until the following nightfall.

The afternoon before Yom Kippur, it is a special mitzvah to eat a festive meal.

As far as making your fast easier in general, try to pace your intake throughout the previous day by eating something every two hours. At the festive meal itself, eat a moderate portion of food so as not to speed up the digestion process. Also, don’t drink any coffee or coke, because caffeine is a diuretic. Heavy coffee drinkers can also avoid the dreaded headache by slowly reducing the amount of coffee consumption over the week leading up to Yom Kippur.

After a meal, we generally get thirstier, so when you complete the festive meal, leave some extra time before sundown to drink. Also, drinking lukewarm water with some sugar in it can help make you less thirsty during the fast.





If someone is ill, and a doctor is of the opinion that fasting might pose a life-danger, then the patient should eat or drink small amounts.

The patient should try to eat only about 60 cc., and wait nine minutes before eating again. Once nine minutes have passed, he can eat this small amount again, and so on throughout the day.

With drinking, he should try to drink less than what the Talmud calls “melo lugmav” — the amount that would fill a person’s puffed-out cheek. While this amount will vary from person to person, it is approximately 80 cc., and he should wait nine minutes before drinking again.

How does consuming small amounts make a difference? In Jewish law, an act of “eating” is defined as “consuming a certain quantity within a certain period of time.” Otherwise, it’s not eating, it’s “nibbling” — which although it’s also prohibited on Yom Kippur, there is room to be lenient when one’s health is at stake.

The reason for all these technicalities is because eating on Yom Kippur is regarded as one of the most serious prohibitions in the Torah. So while there are leniencies in certain situations, we still try to minimize it.

Note that eating and drinking are treated as independent acts, meaning that the patient can eat and drink together during those nine minutes, and the amounts are not combined.

Having said all this, if these small amounts prove insufficient, the patient may even eat and drink regularly. In such a case, a person does not say Kiddush before eating but does recite “Grace After Meals,” inserting the “ya’aleh veyavo” paragraph.

Now, what about a case where the patient’s opinion conflicts with that of the doctor? If the patient is certain he needs to eat to prevent a danger to health, then we rely on his word, even if the doctor disagrees. And in the opposite scenario — if the patient refuses to eat despite doctors’ warnings — then we persuade the patient to eat since it is possible that his judgment is impaired due to illness.

Wishing you an easy fast and a meaningful Yom Kippur!


Rosh Hashana Reflections – 2006

Rosh Hashana Reflections – 2006

1. Rosh Hashana is a Jewish gift to humanity as are the Shabbat, the seven day week cycle, Yom Kippur and the Torah, which greatly impacted the Founding Fathers of the USA. Rosh Hashana is a universal feature of Judaism, committed to the enhancement of humanity (Tikkun Olam), and not just the Jewish People.

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Where do you fit on the political spectrum?

Where do you fit on the political spectrum?

Take the world’s smallest political quiz.

This is where I came out.
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In The American Thinker Ed Lasky published an article today about Jews and the Democratic Party. He begins:

The Democratic Party has been a congenial political home for many American Jews since the era of FDR. The party welcomed them into its ranks (along with many blacks and urban dwellers) and its programs comported well with many values Jews cherish. The Party was also seen as one that had offered help to the doomed Jews of Europe, opposed prejudice, and supported the fledgling state of Israel from enemies that boasted of its plans to destroy the state.

Conversely, the Republican Party was perceived to be a WASP enclave, isolationist in its outlook, and weak on support for Israel (though George C. Marshall under the Truman Administration advocated abandoning Israel to the tender mercies of its Arab neighbors).

However, these views are now anachronistic and need to be revisited.

Developments in the Democratic Party bode ill for the Jewish people and for the state of Israel – home of up to 40% of the world’s remaining Jewish population. The rank and file of the Party has become increasingly anti-Semitic and support for Israel has noticeably fallen. Democratic Congressmen have reflected this trend in very visible ways: their votes and actions in Congress reveal that support for Israel has eroded in alarming ways. Furthermore, more than a few Democratic Congressman have openly made statements that are either clearly anti-Semitic or can be fairly construed to be at least, “anti-Semitic in effect, if not intent”.

He then shows how in both grassroots and in elected Democratic politicians there is a pervasive anti-Israel, anti-Jewish mood.


The internet, because of its low costs, has allowed the power of small donations, multiplied by hundreds of thousands of donors, to rise within the Democratic Party. Moreover, and more importantly, such extreme partisans can be relied-upon to be the unpaid foot soldiers involved in the crucial get-out-the-vote efforts that are often the deciding factors in campaigns. Perhaps it is not surprising that Democratic leaders and presidential aspirants Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mark Warner, John Kerry have all tried to curry favor with the netizens, a group that seem to be increasingly corrupted by anti-Semitism.


There are those who rejoice at the turn in the Democratic Party. The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs is easily the most anti-Israel publication in America. Based in Washington, D.C., its pages are filled with screeds against Israel and it lobbies for the end of US support for Israel. Anti-Semitism has also appeared in the pages of the magazine. In the current issue, the magazine has published its annual “Hall of Fame” that honors Congressmen it considers to be anti-Israel. At the top of the list among Senators, is Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat), aformer Ku Klux Klan Kleagle, Democratic baron, and the holder of one of the most anti-Israel records in Congress. In terms of the House, 29 members hold this dubious distinction – all of them Democrats (including Abercrombie, Conyers, David Obey, Jesse Jackson Jr., McDermott).

He provides quotes from Democratic congressman and other Democratic leaders like Jimmy Carter, that are clearly anti-semitic.

He concludes:

The loyalty American Jews have shown to the Democratic Party is increasingly not appreciated or reciprocated. As the Jewish population faces demographic decline, the Democratic Party is increasingly beholden to groups for which Israel is of no importance whatsoever (unions, for example). Several groups that form the core of the Democratic Party have anti-Semitism rates that are higher than the American population as a whole. As the party skews to the left, it has increasingly adopted the anti-Israel philosophy and attitudes that animate so many on the left.

Conversely, the Republican Party has never been more welcoming to Jews nor as supportive of Israel. The party has welcomed an increasing number of Jews to its ranks, and its candidates garner an increasing number of votes from Jewish voters. While Democrats demagogue the rise of evangelicals in America (and in the Republican Party) and demonize them as a threat to the Jews, such mythmaking does not reflect the fact that evangelicals cherish the Jewish people, for reasons having absolutely nothing to do with end-of-days scenarios. Indeed, Jews have assumed leadership posts in the Republican Party. While Democratic National Committee head Howard Dean joyously dances with a keffiyah draped over his shoulders, Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman waxes nostalgically and publicly about his Bar Mitzvah.

Jews have faced many challenges throughout their history. Iran is one of the most dangerous enemies Israel has ever had: an oil-rich nation with an active nuclear program that has made clear its intention to wipe Israel off the map. A Democratic Party that is increasingly dominated by anti-Israel members, as shown by surveys and Congressional votes, will not be a dependable ally. The fact that more than a few have also expressed , or enabled others to publicly express, anti-Semitism should distress all Americans. However, those contemplating these prospects should do more. Much more.

In an era when over half the world’s Jews face the prospect of annihilation, it is time to reconsider old habits and political alignments. The ability of Jews to survive over the ages has depended on the ability to recognize that situations change and people have to adapt. At times, such changes have compelled Jews to move on to “greener pastures” – to more welcoming and supportive places. This is now such a time- a time for the Jews to wander to the other side of the aisle.

This is an important article for everyone to read, but especially if you are Jewish and a Democrat.


9/11 – We Remember

9/11 – We Remember

“The war on terror is more than a military conflict — it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. And we’re only in its opening stages […] It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st Century. And this is only the beginning.” The President reiterated: “We will stay. We will fight. And we will win in Iraq.”
President Bush, September 7th, 2006
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Prop. 87 – Economic disaster for California

Prop. 87 – Economic disaster for California

The November 2006 California Ballot includes a measure “California Clean Alternative Energy Act” (Proposition 87). It is a measure that is likely to drastically diminish every Californian’s quality of life, while devastating the California economy.
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Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami is coming to the United States after he was granted a visa for the annual UN anniversary celebration. Harvard (of course) is offering the Iranian spokesman a forum to spread his “message”. What is astounding to me is that our government is allowing Khatami, a representative of a country which defies the U.N. by refusing to halt the production of nuclear bombs, and which calls for the destruction of Israel and the U.S. to speak at the Washington National Cathedral.

Excuse me? We are allowing him to speak in the nation’s church? In a house of Christian worship? In the church where the state funerals of Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan were held? I am wondering if we would have invited Herman Goerring to address the nation from the National Cathedral during WWII?

Are we not at war with militant Islamic fascists, such as those who govern Iran?

I was very pleased to see Senator George Allen asking the State Department to revoke the visa of Khatami. Instead, we should be imposing sanctions against Iran, with or without the ineffective U.N. and its pusillanimous leader, Kofi Annan. We can start those sanctions by revoking the visa of Khatami.

An excerpt from the letter:

While I appreciate that we are an open society that is tolerant of diverse viewpoints, I question the benefit of permitting a person who headed a regime that is a leading sponsor of terrorism, permitted human rights abuses, including repression of women and religious minorities, and presided over Iran’s secret nuclear program, which is now the focus of possible UN action, to travel without restriction in the United States. The actions of the Iranian government under President Khatami include the expenditure of billions of dollars on nuclear reactors and sophisticated weapons and the failure to implement reforms that are necessary for Iran to abide by its treaty obligations. Granting this travel visa gives support to the current Iranian strategy of stalling action while it builds its nuclear capabilities and dividing the tentative coalition of states opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

For the full text of Senator Allen’s letter go here.

An American Civilization

An American Civilization

One of my favorite contemporary writers is Bill Whittle. He has a web site called EjectEjectEject. He is writing a book called “An American Civilization”. He has posted the introduction and the first chapter on his web site. It is worthwhile taking a few minutes and reading it.
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Orwell: Pacifism is pro-Fascist

Orwell: Pacifism is pro-Fascist

I came across this essay written by George Orwell during WWII in England. It appeared in The Partisan Review, August-September 1942, at the height of the war. He was talking about the anti-war movement in Great Britain during the Second World War, but his remarks are equally applicable to the anti-war cadre in the U.S. now.
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