Overcoming Yom Kippur Fasting Fatigue

Friday, 22 September, 2023 - 10:58 am

A common topic of conversation around this time of year is how difficult people find fasting on Yom Kippur. Folks are daunted by the notion of over 24 hours without food or water. I understand why that feels overwhelming, especially in our climate.

I must admit that I generally don’t find fasting on Yom Kippur to be a challenge. There are six fast days on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur is the least difficult for me. Why is this so? Practically, when one is occupied, one does not have the opportunity to consider personal discomfort. Yom Kippur is a busy day, filled with prayers and devotion.

Beyond the practical, there is an undercurrent of energy associated with Yom Kippur that can elevate us above our everyday concerns and considerations. There is a quote attributed to Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch, “On Yom Kippur… who can eat.” Eating is so pedestrian, relative to what we are experiencing on this special day.

I recall the years that I was privileged to be in the Rebbe’s presence for Yom Kippur. The energy, and the adrenaline that it brought, increased as the day went on. By the time we got to Neilah, the final prayer service of Yom Kippur, 770 (the Rebbe’s shul in Brooklyn) was rocking like it was Simchas Torah. The songs became livelier, the prayers more intense, and the atmosphere was electric. The crescendo was at the last moment before the sounding of the Shofar. According to Chabad custom, a victory march is sung at the end of Yom Kippur. The Rebbe ascended a platform (in the early years he climbed up on his chair) and led the singing and dancing with amazing energy. The room was shaking, and thousands of people jammed together were singing and dancing in place. An outside observer would never believe that the entire assembly had been fasting for 24 hours.  

Yom Kippur is an amazing day to get in touch with our core identity. The solution to Yom Kippur fasting fatigue is getting your Yom Kippur groove on. When you are in the “zone,” the energy comes from a source far more powerful and potent than mere food and drink, it comes from the soul!

Wishing you all a meaningful Yom Kippur! May G-d seal us all for the blessings of good health, prosperity, nachas, and meaningful spiritual growth.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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