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Author:  Renee
E-mail:  not available
Date:  9/12/2004 10:30:00 AM
Subject:  Yom Kippur fast
Message:  Several years ago I was living in a community that had a young Rabbi serving on his first pulpit.

There was a young woman who was pregnant with her first child, in her sixth month. The woman's husband was concerned that his pregnant wife would not be able to fast on Yom Kippur because of vomiting and the fact that she could not go two hours between meals without feeling cramps and sickness. The woman's doctor had advised her not to fast.

The young father approached the Rav before the Fast and the Rav told him that the wife should fast on Yom Kippur, that pregnant women must fast on Yom Kippur.

At that time, in this community, many pregnant women would arrange to be hospitalized for Yom Kippur in order to have an IV for the fast, but only one Orthodox doctor would be willing to order this $2,200 (at the time) insurance charge and claim that there was a medical neccessity so that insurance would cover it.

My experience has been (through ten pregnancies) that the doctors and midwives, both Jewish and non Jewish have always told all pregnant women that to fast could be dangerous to the baby and that they should speak to their Rav about when it is appropriate to break the fast for the benefit and safety of the baby.

On the morning of Yom Kippur, the husband of the above young woman went to the synagogue to tell the Rav that his wife was vomiting and having cramps. He asked the Rav to allow his wife to eat. He was told, no, the fast was required for pregnant women and that the fast could only be broken in a case of endangerment to life.

Another family member went back to the Rabbi at around noon because she was feeling extremely sick and could not get out of bed, at that time she was told to drink small amounts of water and eat less than a kazayit of bread I think every nine minutes. By early afternoon she was still feeling very badly having eaten nothing but bread and water.

At four PM her husband called for an ambulance and the wife delivered a baby that was under two pounds and subsequently died. The woman was hospitalized for several days as well.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding this tragedy at the time. Many people felt as though it was completely senseless.

I am writing this because I feel it is important to recognize that everyone's body is different and everyone's circumstances are different. If there are people who feel they cannot fast then they must be directed to take their concerns to a competent Rav who is willing if necessary to speak to their doctor in order to determine what is the correct halacha for each of us.

In the Sephardic community, where diabetes is very very common, I have seen over the years several diabetics passed out, flat out unconscious in the synagogue on Yom Kippur because they felt
(or were told)it was necessary to fast no matter what.

In other communities I have seen stretchers in shuls carrying out heart patients who did not take their medications because they felt they could not eat.

I myself am a diabetic, and most of my family has some form of diabetes. Hashem made us this way, it is not a choice. When I was initially diagnosed in my twenties my husband brought a Rav to our house Erev Yom Kippur who ordered me to eat and to eat b'simcha with kiddush and b'sar (I have to put up a Hamim) and hamotzi on Yom Kippur. The Rav instructed me on the proper way to say Bircat Hamazon on Yom Kippur as well.

I am aware that many Rabbeim would not agree that this is the proper method in which to handle the Yom Kippur fast in a case of a chronic situation such as diabetes, but again each one has to follow their Rav.

It is a painful thing to not be able to fast on Yom Kippur and there is no question that had my husband not brought a Rav to the house (and he did so for several years afterwards until I got used to the idea) I certainly would have fasted myself into unconsciousness. Even to this day, almost two decades later, my husband will not go to synagogue in the morning until he watches me eat because he knows that I will still try to fast.

I hope this helps someone. I realize that in many communities not fasting on Yom Kippur means that one is not a part of the Jewish nation.

I feel that anyone who has enough of a concern about the Fast that they are willing to go to a Rav to seek a heter has enough of a concern to warrant a thorough investigation of their issues. Again, I have yet to encounter a person who is willing to seek permission to eat on Yom Kippur who is doing so because of headaches, faintness or other relatively minor or typical discomforts. In fact, my experience has been the opposite, that people who absolutely cannot and should not fast will not go to a Rav and are more than likely to end up in the ER rather than seek a heter.

Thank you for all you do to help our community to serve Hashem.

Shana Tovah! to you and all of your family.

Reply:  Thank you. You bring up many good points. The bottom line is, all Rabbonim agree, that there are times that a person has to eat on Yom Kippur. The question is when. On a website like this, it is very hard to answer these kind of questions, especially since it is dependant on the situation at the time.
The question that was presented here, was a lady who just gave birth. The only way to decide this question would be at the time.
I myself ate on Yom Kippur once. Since my Doctor knew me, he made sure I ate. It is hard to say, that everyone must fast no matter the circumstance. That doesn't fit anywhere in Halacha. In fact, a person is probably transgressing a sin by not eating, if he is supposed to eat.

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