Erev Yom Kippur Links: Why Fast?


  1. The Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail reported on the two girls sent back to Israel to avoid being married off. The article refers to Bruria Keren as “the woman leader of the sect in Israel” and amusingly notes that Beit Shemesh is near where the battle of David and Goliath took place.
  2. On the Forward parenting blog, Kveller, Carla Nussbaum explains why she’s not fasting this Yom Kippur. One Tired Ema points out that it is a privilege to fast. Mayim Bialik responds with a post on the benefits of fasting.
    Fasting is one of the most universal observance of Judaism. If you want to judge whether someone is connected to Judaism, you ask whether they fast on Yom Kippur. It saddens me that the aversion to eating on Yom Kippur, by self-defined committed Jews, is diminishing.
    I also know that while I sometimes panic before a fast whenever there are extenuating circumstances, like a demanding toddler or a cold, it never turns out to be as bad as I thought. I personally find fasting inspiring.
  3. Mayim Bialik writes, misleadingly in my opinion, that “breastfeeding and fasting can co-exist”: “If you are nursing, consult with a lactation consultant and your pediatrician about fasting. My personal experience both as a nursing mom and a Certified Lactation Educator Counselor is that during the first three months of nursing, when milk supply is being established, you want to be very careful about supply, and babies will often want to nurse a lot the day AFTER a fast to pull up milk supply that may have dropped from a day of no water and no food.
    It’s true that *most* babies will do fine if their mothers fast. But some won’t, and those are the ones we have to worry about.  Some rabbis require nursing mothers to drink in small quantities throughout the day.
    A small clarifcation about milk supply: The “milk supply” is established during the first two weeks, when, according to research, prolactin receptors are laid down in the breast. It can be hard, but not impossible, to increase the amounts later on, especially with a first baby. Interestingly, the quantity of breastmilk hardly increases between one and six months—babies are just more efficient about absorbing it. Read more in my post on A Radical Ruling: Fasting and Breastfeeding on Yom Kippur.
  4. Last year, I wrote this controversial post listing abstracts of studies on pregnancy and fasting.
  5. Haveil Havalim, pre-Yom-Kippur edition, is up at Liberty’s Spirit.
  6. I like these sensible tips for an easy fast.

As always, I’d like to ask forgiveness for any readers whom I may have offended during the past year. Please feel free to write privately if there is something specific.

Gmar chatimah tovah—may we all be inscribed in the book of life for the coming year.

image: Wikipedia


  1. Thanks for the link!

    Mayim Bialik must be super lucky. Because apparently she can fast completely, feel well, nurse on demand, be in shul all day (including neilah, presumably standing), and be present for her children and for her spiritual experience.

    For a lot of nursing mothers who want to/have to fast, the goal is to just get through the day with everybody in one piece. If I recall, usually by the end of it I was either on the couch or flat on my back on the floor (to stave off dizziness). Not everyone can do that and feel transcendent at the same time 😉

    Gmar chatima tova.

  2. Gmar chatimah tovah!

  3. I don’t think that being “bitchy” is enough reason not to fast if one is otherwise committed to a Jewish lifestyle. But I think people need to pay attention to health concerns that are not otherwise a problem. People with blood sugar issues, people who vomit while fasting or profusely after breaking their fast, and young teenagers should not insist on fasting if their bodies can’t handle it.

    The day after tzom gedalia a few years ago I was called to school to pick up my 12-year old daugher who had a headache and wasn’t feeling well. When I got to school there were 3 other girls in the nurse’s office with similar symptoms. I can’t imagine the fast had nothing to do with it.

    I agree it’s a privilege to fast, and I think it’s important to be cognizant that not everyone can fast. Fasting also gets me in touch with the reality that many people in the world don’t have enough to eat and are hungry every day, and I am fortunate not to be in that situation.

    • Yes, fasting when you shouldn’t is worse than not fasting when you should! The thing also, with 12-year-olds, is that they don’t also know what symptoms are “normal” for them while fasting. Better they should be cautious until they figure it out.

  4. Wishing you all an easy fast.

  5. ruchelle smith says

    You have shared a valuable information here. Specially the part about breast feeding mom. its really helpful. Easy Fast everyone!

  6. I love your website, Mother in Israel. This is my first post. I made it through the fast yesterday, which surprized me. I didn’t do it the last two years due to breastfeeding. After shul this year, I spent practically the whole rest of the day in bed. I could barely stand up without feeling weak and dizzy. I couldn’t take care of my kids. (Daddy had to help). How do you and the more religious Jew readers here fast a whole day and take care of your little ones?

    • Thanks so much, SLL! The simple answer is that some people fast easily, but others have a similar experiences to what you had. They need to make sure they get the help they need, and rule out an undiagnosed health issue like tesyaa suggested.

  7. US Navy Engineering Officer says

    You are going to have a lot of problems convincing me against believing that:

    1. our primate physiologies are about 5 million years old; agriculture is no older than 12-15 thousand years

    2. our bodies are equipped to go, if necessary, many weeks without food intake without serious repercussions.

    biological fact: If you appear decently well-fed, then you are in fact overweight, and will benefit from becoming somewhat more anorexic-appearing.

    There is an biological-evolutionary reason why your sons want to go sleep with slender Thai women when they get released from Army service. Accept the reality, ladies.

  8. Ms. Krieger says

    I fasted this year, while breastfeeding a 5 month old. The baby was fine; I was not. My family convinced me to start drinking water during the afternoon, but I still felt extremely ill and weak, and felt ill at break fast. I had trouble standing up and a terrible headache, even after eating.

    It was an experiment; I will not try to fast without liquids when breastfeeding again.

    As for US Navy Engineering Officer…I think you ideas are interesting. I wonder what your background is. Which “body type” is most attractive to humans is quite culturally influenced. Just for ex…..I went to a secular, urban US high school where the majority of the student body was African-American and Latino. You may be surprised to hear this, but those young men did not consider skinny white and Asian girls attractive. We were, um, lacking. 🙂