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Fasting on Yom Kippur Which Falls on Shabbat

Fasting on Yom Kippur Which Falls on Shabbat

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Painting by Alex Levin (ArtLevin.com)
Painting by Alex Levin (ArtLevin.com)

Question:

Since it is forbidden to fast on Shabbat, do we fast on Yom Kippur if it falls on Shabbat?

Answer:

Your premise is correct; all other fast days are postponed until Sunday when they fall on Shabbat.1 However, unlike all other fasts, Yom Kippur is not postponed, and is fully observed even on Shabbat.2 The Torah dubs Yom Kippur Shabbat Shabbaton—the “Shabbat of Shabbats,”3 implying that it takes precedence over Shabbat.

According to chassidic teachings, Yom Kippur falling on Shabbat doesn’t “deprive” us of the pleasures—eating, drinking, resting, etc.—which Shabbat normally affords us. Rather the extremely holy nature of Yom Kippur accomplishes the same objectives, albeit in a higher, more spiritual manner.

Here are two explanations on this topic, culled from the chassidic works:

1) King David says,4 “Behold, G‑d’s eye is directed towards those who fear Him, to those who hope for His kindness, to rescue their soul from death and to sustain them in famine.” The Hebrew words for “to sustain them in famine”
(להחיותם ברעב) can also be translated as “to sustain them with hunger.” In a spiritual sense, “famine” refers to the soul’s yearning for closeness to G‑d, a yearning which derives from the fact that the soul is “a part of G‑d above,”5 and always desires to reunite with its Source. On Yom Kippur, when the soul and its needs and wants are bared, this hunger alone, the quest for spirituality, is sufficient to satiate and satisfy a person. On the holiest day of the year, we are fueled not by carbohydrates or proteins, but by the revelation of our very essence and its intrinsic relationship with G‑d.6

2) The human’s physical need for nutrition stems from the soul’s need to be energized by the divine sparks inherent within every physical creation. This is because the soul has many levels, and only its lowest levels are normally expressed in the body, and these soul-levels require the spiritual nutrition derived from various foods. The essence of the soul, however, is far higher than these sparks, and therefore has no need to be fortified through their consumption. Thus, on Yom Kippur, when this essence is revealed and expressed within every Jew, there is no need for eating or drinking.7

May we all experience a spiritually uplifting Yom Kippur, a Yom Kippur which will cast its holy glow—and have a concrete effect—upon the entire blessed new year.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

Footnotes
1.

The exception to this rule is the Fast of Esther, which, if it falls on Shabbat, is moved up and observed on the Thursday beforehand (because Sunday is the holiday of Purim).

2.

The only difference in observance between a weekday Yom Kippur and a Shabbat Yom Kippur is that (in Ashkenazic communities) the Avinu Malkeinu prayer, which is normally recited four times in the course of the Yom Kippur services, is recited only once on a Shabbat Yom Kippur, at the conclusion of the final (Ne’ilah) prayer.

5.

Job 31:2; Tanya, ch. 2.

6.

Likkutei Torah (by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi), Song of Songs 14b.

7.

Likkutei Torah, Shemini Atzeret 87a.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
Artwork by Alex Levin. Ukrainian-born Alex Levin lives in Rishon Lezion, Israel. His works, many of which depict Jewish life in Israel, have been admired by Israeli presidents and international celebrities. Alex has received the Award for the Contribution to the Judaic Art from the Knesset. Paintings can be viewed and purchased at ArtLevin.com.
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Melech NYC October 4, 2014

Fasting on Shabbat on Yom Kippur When I was a kid at Yeshiva Rabanu Moshe Soloveichik, I was taught otherwise. Here goes: I was taught that since we don't even blow the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur if that falls on a Friday night, for fear that someone might carry the shofar to shul and that would constitute "work," then logic dictates that we definitely don't fast if Erev Yom Kippur starts on a Friday night. I make no judgements- just telling ya what I was taught. Reply

Pamela Shapiro September 30, 2014

Thanks for this great explanation! I really appreciate your explaining why we fast on Yom Kippur, even when it is the Holy Shabbat which every Jew must keep. I especially enjoyed hearing about the divine sparks and why food satiates us. Leshana tovah tikatev v’tichatem! Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 24, 2014

Fasting on Yom Kippur Which Falls on Shabbat I always hated it when Yom Kippur fell on Shabbat, because you can't enjoy Shabbat if you can't eat! Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary September 18, 2013

Re: Leather gloves are fine. It was determined by the Sages that only leather footwear is considered a basic creature comfort which we must do without on these days. Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman September 15, 2013

For m in Miami The hunger is good. It cleanses and lifts the body to a higher place. Reply

m Miami September 14, 2013

despite of your lofty ideas I'm still hungry on Yom Kipur, does that mean that I should eat because it is Shabbos? Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson via mychabad.org September 13, 2013

Re Challah/Wine Good question. Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shabbaton, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, in the Torah, hence it supersedes Shabbat and we fast on this day, YK is the only fast which may be held on Shabbat, all other fast days are pushed off to Sunday, the day after.

Practically speaking this means that we do light candles and do *not* say kiddush nor do hamotzi, many have the custom of eating challah during the pre and post fast meals. Reply

Diane Atlanta, GA September 13, 2013

What about challah? If no wine, no challot? Reply

Eric Appalachian Mountains September 12, 2013

I live in an extreme rural area, thought I would look into Yom Kipper. I notice you were not supposed to wear leather shoes, does that count for gloves too? If I fast saturday, can I work? I am a metal sculptor, that's where the gloves come in. I'm trying, that's a step in the right direction. Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson via mychabad.org September 11, 2013

To Anonymous The yahrtzeit candle which is traditionally lit for Yom Kippur should be lit before candle lighting, this year on Friday evening. For candle lighting times in your city please go to this link Reply

Anonymous California September 11, 2013

Yahrzeit Candle ? I am confused about lighting the Yahrzeit candle this time for Yom Kippur, if Yom Kippur is Friday and the instructions are to light the candle the evening preceding does that mean I should light the candle for my Mom Thursday night? Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman September 20, 2010

Re: Bracha for shabbat There is no kiddush when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat. Reply

Dave Leader Lynnfield, Ma September 18, 2010

Thank you for the info I was wondering about this. Reply

chaim miami September 17, 2010

Bracha for shabbat Is the prayer for kiddush different since we do not do the blessing for wine and bread? “yom hashishi...." Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman September 17, 2010

Re: candle lighting tonight The blessing is a little different--it includes both Shabbat and Yom Kippur. Find that on this page. Reply

Naftali Silberberg (Author) September 17, 2010

To Michal: Yes, this year, the blessing is:

Ba-ruch a-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam asher ki-deshanu be-mitzvo-tav ve-tzvi-vanu le-hadlik ner shel Shabbat v'shel Yom HaKipurim.

(Blessed are You, L‑rd, our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to kindle the light of Shabbat and Yom Kippur.)

Followed by the Shehecheyanu blessing. Reply

Michal Kramer Alfe Menashe, Israel September 17, 2010

candle lighting tonight Because Yom Kippur and Shabbat are both tonight, is there a special prayer for candle lighting? Reply

Chana S. Paulo September 14, 2010

Shabbos Yom Kipur Another difference in observance between a weekday Yom Kippur and a Shabbat Yom Kippur, is that spices (besomim) are included in Havdallah. Reply

tzina nechumah Israel September 13, 2010

Fasting on Yom Kippur when it's Shabbat. Thank-you Rabbi for answering this most important question.

Shana Tova. Reply

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