For the week ending 5 October 2019 / 6 Tishri 5780

Yom Kippur Assortment

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Life in the Fast Vein

Ivy Epstein wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

If someone is sick and needs to eat on Yom Kippur, why not do so through intravenous? I understand that "eating" intravenously would not technically violate the fast. So why don't sick people check in to a hospital before Yom Kippur and "drink" intravenously, instead of actually breaking the fast?

Dear Ivy Epstein,

The obligation to fast starts on Yom Kippur itself, not before. Once Yom Kippur arrives, it's forbidden to hook up to intravenous, since blood will spill.

And before Yom Kippur, there's no obligation, per se, to prepare for the fast. Therefore, there's no obligation to hook up to intravenous.

And since there's no obligation to "eat" intravenously, it might actually be forbidden to do so if you don't need to. For one, inserting a needle is a transgression of the prohibition against unnecessarily wounding oneself. And who knows, intravenous may involve certain health risks, all of which may not be known at present.

  • Sources: Iggrot Moshe Orach Chaim 3:90

Paying for Praying

John from Sweden wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Synagogue fees: Is it in accordance with Jewish law to take fees from local Jews just to attend the synagogue?

Dear John,

It is certainly the accepted norm to pay a membership fee to the synagogue in which one prays.

First of all, paying fosters a stronger sense of communal spirit; when a person pays for something, he comes to value it more than had he received it for free. Paying a synagogue fee tends to make a person feel more a part of the community.

But on a practical note, synagogues have tremendous expenses: Books, rent or mortgage, electricity, heat, water, furniture, cleaning supplies, structural maintenance, salaries, social services, etc. Who is supposed to pay for it all, if not the people who avail themselves of the synagogue's services? Even if charitable donors pay for many of these costs, why shouldn't each participant also contribute to the remaining costs according to his/her ability?

Please note: The above is a general description of the appropriateness of paying synagogue fees; it isn't a definitive ruling regarding any specific case. Rulings in such matters should be sought from a rabbi or adjudicating body (Beit Din) personally familiar with the claims of both parties.

  • Sources: Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 163:1

Physical Feetness

Dr. Pinky from Australia wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

What is the rationale behind the prohibition of not wearing leather shoes on Yom Kippur?

Dear Dr. Pinky,

The shoe symbolizes the physical body. Just as the shoe encases the lowest part of the body and allows it to ambulate in the world, so too the body encases the lowest level of the soul and allows it to ambulate and relate to the physical world.

Therefore, whenever G-d wants a person to relate on a totally spiritual level, ignoring the body, He commands him to remove his shoes. This was true when G-d spoke to Moses and to Joshua; it was true for the kohanim in the Temple in Jerusalem, and it is true for every Jew on Yom Kippur. We ignore the physical for one day a year, and to symbolize this we remove our leather shoes. Leather specifically, because it came from a living creature and hence symbolizes the body in a much more graphic way than other materials.

The shoe is also removed in a ceremony called "chalitzah," as follows: If one of two brothers dies childless, it is a mitzvah for the widow and the surviving brother to marry each other. If the brother refuses, then the widow is to remove his shoe, signifying that he does not deserve physical comfort or even a body, because he refuses to give a physical form to his deceased brother's soul.

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