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Mitzvah/Concept 95 Yom Kippur Part One

“You Shall not Eat or Drink on Yom Kippur”

“For any


soul who will not be afflicted on this very day will be cut off from its people.”1

This is the negative side of the previous commandment. We are forbidden to eat, drink, wash, and anoint ourselves, to wear leather shoes or to have marital relations.

Food and drink and other physical pleasures will draw a person closer to the physical world and those drives which led him to sin. They will distract him from searching for truth and serving God. It is also inappropriate to come and face the King on the Day of Judgment all wrapped up in immediate needs and drives. We are also judged as we are at that moment2 and therefore we should be entirely focused on our spiritual life.3

We do not eat or drink because we are acknowledging that without the atonement of this day we forfeit the right to our physical pleasures the rest of the year.4 One who doesn’t fast is denying that God has accepted personal responsibility for every detail of each individual’s needs, and is determining this day of attachment between the Sustainer and His Creations.5 We stand in spiritual purity for one day to show God and ourselves that although we are not capable of living at this level every day of the year, we wish we were able to live a spiritual life of constant closeness to God. We do not eat or drink in order to show that we are able to deny the physical in order to achieve spiritual goals.6


There is a ferocious battle between the body and soul on Yom Kippur. There is an equally serious battle between Satan and the Jewish People. The law is that when we go into battle we must fast in order to merit Divine assistance.7

The First and Second Tablets
Something happened at Revelation, before Moses even went up to Sinai; “Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended. They saw the Lord of Israel, and under His feet was the likeness of sapphire brickwork, and it was like the essence of the heaven in purity. Against the great men of the Children of Israel, He did not stretch out His hand-they gazed at the Lord, yet they ate and drank.”8 The fact that they were willing to eat and drink even when they merited such powerful Divine Revelation, weakened the nation and contributed to the sin of the Golden Calf which led to the destruction of the First Tablets.

We do not eat on Yom Kippur, the day we received the Second Tablets, and the day on which we too can achieve great spiritual heights, in order to fix the sin of; “Yet they ate and drank.”9

It is absolutely necessary to treat spiritual awareness with the greatest of respect. If we are casual in the midst of receiving spiritual heights and intimacy with God, we lessen all that we are accomplishing. We do not eat or drink in order to honor the spiritual heights of Yom Kippur, and to show that we will not be casual when receiving such an incredible opportunity.

1 Leviticus 23:29

2 TB Rosh Hashanah 16b

3 Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvah 278

4 Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch Leviticus 23:29

5 ibid

6 Akeidat Yitzchak Gate 63

7 Ha’amak Davar Leviticus 16:29

8 Exodus 24:9-11

9 Chizkuni Leviticus 23:27

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