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Why do Jewish People Fast on Yom Kippur?

Renee Eder on Monday, September 21, 2015


Yom Kippur is the day when Jewish people atone for the sins we have committed over the past year. Jewish tradition believes that, on this day, G-d places a seal upon the "book of life," affecting each person for the coming year. This year, Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Tuesday, Sept. 22 and lasts through Wednesday, Sept. 23. 

So, why do Jewish people fast on this holy day?  Fasting is an opportunity for each of us to observe Yom Kippur in a most personal way. As we seek reconciliation with G-d and humanity, fasting touches the biological, as well as the spiritual, aspects of our being.

Why else do we fast? (from Our Jewish Learning)

  • Inner awakening: Yom Kippur is a day of self-searching and earnest communication with G-d. This search requires an internal calm which derives from slowing down our biological rhythm. Fasting on Yom Kippur provides the key to our inner awakening.
  • An act of discipline: Fasting on Yom Kippur demonstrates our willingness to submit to discipline.  To set boundaries for our own conduct in this very private matter is to begin the path toward controlling our public behavior. 
  • For solidarity: Fasting on Yom Kippur is an act of solidarity with the suffering of the Jewish people. Through fasting, we are drawn closer to all who live lives of deprivation. 
  • To cleanse ourselves: Upon the completion of our fast, we should turn back to the world prepared to act with love and compassion.

So, what do you say when you see someone who is observing Yom Kippur, since "Happy Yom Kippur" doesn't seem appropriate. You can say, “Have an easy fast” or “May you be inscribed for a good year." It’s also acceptable to say “shana tova” (happy new year). With that, we hope everyone who celebrate has an easy fast, and that EVERYONE is inscribed for a good year!

In observance of Yom Kippur, the J will be closing at 3pm on Tuesday and will be closed all day Wednesday. 



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