Yom Kippur fasting rules

Yom Kippur fasting rules

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, as is said in the Torah

“Because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.”

On Beit Chabad’s Kippur website, you will learn the holy day’s rules and customs as well as everything you need to know about the holy day.

In addition, you can observe the kapparot mitzvah with Beit Chabad.

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Table of Contents:

yom kippur fasting rules

The book of Leviticus says:

“And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you”

The Torah commands us to fast on Yom Kippur, read in more detail on why do we fast on Yom Kippur?

There are 5 prohibitions through which we observe the self-affliction commanded in the Torah, as we will detail below.

It is important to note that in addition to the commandment of affliction, Yom Kippur is considered a sabbatical and it is a mitzvah to cease all work on this day and refrain from performing actions that are prohibited during a Sabbath.

The five afflictions 

  • Food and drink
  • Bathing
  • Applying oil products on the body
  • Wearing sandals
  • Engaging in any form of spousal intimacy

Prohibition of food and drink

On Yom Kippur, it is forbidden to eat and drink any amount of food or drink.

And yet, there are certain quantities of eating and drinking that those who consume them will be liable for the punishment of Kareth (extirpation) from the Torah.

For eating, the condition is:

  1. Eating a minimal amount of food, close to the size of an egg. 
  2. Eating is done over a defined time period of “up to a slice of bread”. Around 4-9 minutes.

For drinking, the condition is:

When a man drinks enough that his mouth is full from cheek to cheek. {this is estimated on a case by case basis}

Who must fast?

  • Every man and woman starting from adulthood, boys starting at 13 and girls starting at 12.
  • A pregnant woman must fast unless this would put her at risk, and we prefer choosing to eat less than the above quantity, and only if there is no choice do we let her eat as usual.
  • A woman who gave birth within the last three days must not fast.
  • After three days, it depends how the woman is feeling.
  • Seven days after the birth, if the woman is healthy, she must not eat, unless she feels unwell and is defined as having “an illness that involves risk”.
  • A breastfeeding woman whose child feeds only from her, and who could be at risk if his mother fasts – in such a case, the mother may drink or eat in accordance with a doctor’s instructions and as we wrote above, we prefer the eating/drinking to not exceed a portion (the quantities listed above).
  • A man who is ill would do well to consult a doctor on whether his medical condition allows him to fast in full or only partially, whether he must eat or would only drinking be enough, and whether, medically speaking, he can drink and eat less than a portion (which is a preferred option in terms of the Halacha) 
  • A man who is ill on Yom Kippur, who would be at risk if he fasts, should not take the risk and he is to be fed, preferably less than a portion.
  • Children: It is good to habituate children to fast for a few hours a day, starting from the age of 9-10, in accordance with their ability.

Prohibition on bathing on Yom Kippur

  • Bathing is forbidden on Yom Kippur, whether in hot water or cold, and even dipping a toe in water is forbidden.
  • If a specific part of the body is dirty, washing the dirt off with water allowed.
  • Washing hands on Yom Kippur is allowed up to a half palm of the hand.
  • The mouth must not be washed on Yom Kippur.
  • Someone who’s ill can bathe on Yom Kippur, if it is medically necessary.

Prohibition on applying oil products on the body

Creams/oils/perfumes/deodorant may not be applied on the body, in any amount.

We will note that despite the prohibition of bathing for purposes of pleasure, applying oils is also disallowed even if it is not for pleasure purposes, but merely to remove dirt.

Prohibition on wearing leather shoes

It is forbidden to wear a shoe made from leather, or which has leather parts. 

Other shoes, such as cloth or rubber shoes, are allowed, and there are two reasons for this:

  1. A shoe not made from leather is less comfortable, and feels like stepping on the ground.
  2. A shoe not made from leather is not considered a shoe, but a piece of clothing, and does not fall under the prohibition on wearing shoes in Yom Kippur.

Engaging in any form of spousal intimacy

Any form of spousal intimacy is not allowed on Yom Kippur and in addition, distance should be kept between husband and wife, as described in the laws of Nidah.

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Yom Kippur fasting rules

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