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Shabbat Parashat Haazinu | 5770

Ask the Rabbi: Eating on Yom Kippur for health reasons

Question: If someone has to eat for health reasons on Yom Kippur in a manner that he has to eat, at times, more than a shiur (the amount that constitutes a full violation), does he have to be careful about the shiur the rest of the day?

Answer: When possible, a sick person who must eat ingests food and drink in small quantities to minimize the level of the necessary violation of eating on Yom Kippur (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 618:8). (You are apparently aware of how this is done.) Your question is whether or not this effort is all or nothing. In other words, if he anyway has to fully break the fast, does it makes a difference how many times this happens? (We are assuming that the need to be careful each time is not itself going to negatively impact the sick person.)

If the question related to other eating violations (e.g., a sick person had to eat non-kosher food), the answer is simple. Just because one was forced to perform a major violation once is no reason for it to be less severe later. The question is whether eating on Yom Kippur is a normal "eating violation," wherein every shiur of food is a violation, or whether it is a violation of the obligation to fast. If the latter is true, then arguably, once one was forced to suspend his fast, further eating does not fundamentally change things.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 568:1) says that when one has to fast on a specific day (even if it is self-imposed) but ate, he must continue fasting and cannot say that fasting the rest of the day will not help. This would seem to answer our question. However, the Binyan Tzion (34) suggests that this requirement to continue the fast might only apply if he ate improperly. In contrast, when halacha allowed him to break his fast (by eating a full shiur), we might say that there no longer is a fast to continue. At that point, whether or not he eats a full shiur or is careful to eat small amounts and take breaks might be irrelevant. The Mikraei Kodesh (Yamim Noraim, 39) goes a step further, saying that even if one were to get better and not need to eat any more, it would still arguably be halachically permitted to eat.

There are certain indications that eating on Yom Kippur is not a classical prohibition on eating but a mitzva to go through a day-long fast: The Torah says (Vayikra 23:27) to “afflict yourselves” (as opposed to “do not eat”); in that context, it says from “evening to evening,” implying that there is a single unit; the shiur is not the usual k’zayit but a larger one that “puts his mind at ease” (Yoma 81a). (The matter of putting the mind at ease should not be exaggerated. The violation is not when one goes from a state of hunger to one of relatively less hunger. After all, one who ate half an hour into Yom Kippur and is still satiated from the seuda hamafseket still commits a full violation. Rather, the violation is to eat significantly in a way that generally suffices to put one’s mind at ease that he has eaten (S’fat Emet, Yoma 73b).)

The crucial source in trying to resolve this matter is the gemara in Kritut (18b). In looking for a case of one who violated prohibitions that would require separate korbanot but having done so on Yom Kippur, the day one gets atonement for sins, the gemara mentions eating forbidden fats in the morning and afternoon. Tosafot and the Rosh (in Shita Mekubetzet) (ad loc.) ask why the gemara didn’t just talk about one who is obligated in two korbanot for eating anything twice on Yom Kippur. The Binyan Tzion suggests that this might only obligate in one korban because, as above, once he ate there is no fast to break. However, the aforementioned, more authoritative sources do not give that fundamental answer, and give less satisfying technical answers. This suggests that which most poskim (see also Yalkut Yosef, Moadim, pg. 96) seem to posit: although there is a positive element of fasting a whole day, every act of eating is a violation of eating on a day when eating is forbidden.


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