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                         Halachot for Yom Kippur

                                              Rabbi Dovid Horwitz

Kaparot

1. During the days that proceed Yom Kippur, there is an Ashkenazi custom to perform kaparot. This is done by taking a live chicken and swinging it three times around one’s head. During this time, the penitent declares that the chicken should go to its death instead of the sinner.

2. The idea that one can offer an animal as an exchange for his life is reminiscent of the sin offering that was offered by a sinner in the Beit Hamikdash.

3. After making the exchange, the chicken is given to a shochet to slaughter, whereupon the chicken is given to the poor as charity. By doing so, the penitent is being awarded a double merit. Firstly, the person is offering the Attribute of Justice a life in place of his own, and secondly, he or she receives protection befitting one who gives charity.

4. Alternatively, some have the custom to do kaparot with money. They swing the money over their heads, declaring that the money will go to charity and in that merit they should be granted a good year.

Erev Yom Kippur

1. It is a mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur during the day in order to prepare for the fast. The Talmud tells us that eating on Erev Yom Kippur is tantamount to fasting and therefore one who eats properly on Erev Yom Kippur and fasts on Yom Kippur will be rewarded as if he fasted for two consecutive days.

2.  It is customary to have two meals on Erev Yom Kippur - a midday meal as well as the pre-fast meal.

3. It is customary to eat fish at the midday meal and to eat kreplach, or other filled food at the pre-fast meal to symbolize the Jewish spirit that is hidden within each Jewish person.

4. One should refrain from eating beef on Erev Yom Kippur. Chicken or chicken soup should be prepared for the pre-fast meal.

5. Some authorities maintain that one is no longer allowed to eat or drink after reciting the Bircat Hamazon of the pre-fast meal as it symbolically marks the acceptance of the fast. Therefore, one who wants to continue drinking or eating after completing this meal should verbally declare, before reciting Birkat Hamazon, that he or she is not accepting the fast upon himself or herself as of yet.

6. As Yom Kippur does not atone for the sins committed between people, one should ask forgiveness from every person that he or she may have wronged during the year prior to Yom Kippur. This is especially true of one’s family members whom one may have wronged.

7. It is a mitzvah for a man to immerse in a mikvah before Yom Kippur in order to usher in the day in a state of purity.

8. Since this immersion is obligatory according to many opinions, one should wash and brush one’s teeth properly before entering the mikvah in order to assure that there are no intervening substances on his body.

9. Viduy, confession, is the primary mitzvah that we perform on the day of Yom Kippur. The Viduy should be recited while standing.  One is allowed to lean slightly against something for support, provided that he or she would not fall over if it were suddenly pulled away.

Accepting Yom Kippur

1.  It is a mitzvah to accept Yom Kippur slightly before sundown. This can be accomplished by verbally accepting the holiness of the day, or by reciting the Sh’checheyanu brachah after Kol Nidrei.

2. A woman automatically accepts Yom Kippur upon reciting the blessing of Sh’checheyanu when she lights candles.

3.  If she does not want to accept Yom Kippur at candle lighting, she can light candles without the Sh'checheyanu brachah, with specific intention not to accept Yom Tov, and later recite Sh'checheyanu after Kol Nidrei.

Yom Kippur Clothing

1. It is customary to wear nice clothing on Yom Kippur since it is a Yom Tov.

2. Because Yom Kippur it is Yom HaDin, a Day of Judgment, women should not wear the jewelry that they reserve only for Shabbat and Yom Tov. They can wear the jewelry that they normally wear everyday.

3. It is customary for married men to wear a kittel on Yom Kippur. It is a white garment that symbolizes purity and it also reminds one of the day of his death since a man is buried in his kittel. It therefore inspires a person to become humble and contrite on this holy day.

Five Afflictions of Yom Kippur

In addition to the prohibition of work, Yom Kippur places upon us five additional restrictions in order to help us achieve a higher degree of sanctity on this special day. The five prohibitions are:

eating & drinking
bathing
anointing
wearing leather shoes
marital relations

Eating / Drinking

1. Atlhough Chazal refer to these prohibitions as afflictions, one is not necessarily meant to suffer from them. The mitzvah of eating on Erev Yom Kippur testifies to this. We eat in order to lighten the sufferings of the fast. Therefore, most poskim rule that one is allowed on Erev Yom Kippur to take herbal formulas that are designed to make the fast easier to bear.

2. The amount of food that is considered a total violation of one’s fast is a volume of 30 cc. Since some foods weigh more than others, we calculate the amount according to volume and not weight.

3. The amount of liquid that is considered a violation of the fast is one cheek-full of liquid. This is approximately 40 cc of water.

4. Someone who is ill and feels that he or she should eat or drink for health reasons must consult a doctor and Rav before doing so.

5. If one’s doctor and Rav feel that he should eat or drink, the Rav will likely instruct him or her to eat less than 30 cc of food and/or less than 40 cc of water in increments no less than 9 minutes apart.

6. Many poskim rule that it is better to refrain from touching food if one can avoid it. There is always a concern that a person might come to forget that it is a fast day and accidentally eat some of the food that he or she is handling. Many poskim allow handling food because we can assume that the seriousness of the day is always at the forefront of one’s mind.

Washing / Annointing

1. Bathing for pleasure is prohibited on Yom Kippur. Therefore, one is not allowed to wash one’s face or rinse one’s mouth out during the fast.

2. One should wash one’s fingers upon awakening and after using the restroom taking care not to wet the palms of the hands.

3. If one’s hand or any other part of the body becomes soiled, one may wash those parts in order to remove the dirt.

4. It is forbidden to anoint oneself with oils and the like even for the purpose of removing an unpleasant odor. Therefore, deodorants and antiperspirants may only be applied before the fast begins.

5. A person who needs to apply creams or ointments for medical reasons should ask a Rav how to proceed.

Wearing Shoes

1. It is forbidden to wear shoes that contain any amount of leather.

2. Some authorities even maintain that non-leather sneakers should also not be worn, even though they do not contain any leather as they are designed to be as comfortable as regular shoes and are typically worn throughout the year.

3. It is therefore preferable to wear slippers or other house shoes that are not typically worn outside.

Children under Bar / Bat Mitzvah

1. A child above the age of three or four should preferably refrain from wearing leather shoes but is not obligated in any of the other five restrictions.

2. A child who is already nine years old should fast for part of the day. The child should break his or her fast when the child feels hungry or thirsty.

3. A nine year old should also refrain from bathing and anointing.

4. A boy or girl who is already eleven years old should try to complete the fast if he or she feels healthy.

Motza’ei Yom Kippur

1. Havdalah on Motza’ei Yom Kippur differs slightly from the normal Havdalah we recite after Shabbat. Although we do not use spices, besamim, after Yom Kippur, we do use a candle to recite the blessing of Borei Me’orei Ha’aish.

2. The reason for making a brachah on fire at the conclusion of Yom Kippur is completely different from that of Havdalah after Shabbat. At the close of Shabbat, we make a brachah on fire to commemorate its creation, which took place at this time.

3. On Motza’ei Yom Kippur, the reason for making a brachah on fire is to express that the use of fire, which was forbidden during Yom Kippur, has now become permissible.

4. In order to accentuate this point, we only recite this brachah on a fire that  remained lit for the duration of Yom Kippur. Therefore, it is insufficient to light a fire after Yom Kippur to use for Havdalah.

5. For this reason, one should light a candle that has enough oil or wax to last until the conclusion of Yom Kippur, and designate it as his special “Havdalah light”. Because we make Havdalah on a flame that is comprised of two wicks, one should light another candle from his special “Havdalah light” and hold the two together.

6. If a person only has a Yohrtziet candle that was lit for Yizkor, he can hold another candle together with it and say Havdalah since that candle also rested during Yom Kippur.

7. If the gas stove remained lit from before Yom Kippur, one can light two candles from the gas flame and use them to make Havdalah since the flame originated from a source that remained lit the whole of Yom Kippur.

8. If a person has no source of fire that had remained lit during Yom Kippur, the Mishnah Berurah rules that a brachah may not be said. Under such circumstances, Havdalah should be recited without the flame.

9. One should break the fast over a festive meal, rejoicing in the hopes that Hashem has cleansed our souls of sin. It is customary to begin building one’s sukkah on Motzei Yom Kippur while we are still on a spiritual high.

Gemar chatimah tovah!


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