Yom Kippur

Do we observe the Yom Kippur fast on Shabbat?


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


We do fast when Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbat (this being one of the differences between Yom Kippur and other fasts). Since Yom Kippur is a biblical fast, and the Torah calls it “Shabbat Shabbaton” – the Shabbat of Shabbats – this implies that it takes precedence over Shabbat.

Moses assembled the entire community of Israel and said to them, “These are the words that G‑d has commanded for you to do. You may engage in work during the first six days of the week, but Saturday must be kept holy as a Shabbat of Shabbats to God.(Ex. 35:1-2)

This shall be an eternal law for you. Every year on the 10th day of the 7th month, you must fast and not do any work, whether it be the native citizen or the proselyte. This is because, on this day, all of your sins will be atoned for, so that you will be cleansed. Before G‑d, you will be cleansed of all your sins. It is a Shabbat of Shabbats to you, and a day on which you must fast. It is an eternal law. (Lev. 16:29-31)

Ordinarily the 7th day Shabbat takes precedence over fast days and we do not fast on that day. The fast is usually pushed off until the first day of the week (or in one instance — the Fast of Esther — it is observed on the Thursday beforehand, because the day after Shabbat, Sunday, will be Purim).  But from these two verses, we can see that both the Shabbat and Yom Kippur are called “Shabbat of Shabbats”, the ultimate expression of Shabbat and because both of these days are equally “Shabbat Shabaton” and as we can find no other biblical mandate to change the 10th of Tishrei to the next day, we conclude that the Yom Kippur fast must be on the day that God mandated even if it falls on a weekly Shabbat.

What about the quote in Jubilees 50:12?

 And every man who does any work thereon, or goes a journey, or tills (his) farm, whether in his house or any other place, and whoever lights a fire, or rides on any beast, or travels by ship on the sea, and whoever strikes or kills anything, or slaughters a beast or a bird, or whoever catches an animal or a bird or a fish, or whoever fasts or makes war on the Sabbaths: by R.H. Charles, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913

We have found that this word “fast” was not interpreted as such in earlier manuscripts of the Book but as contend (See below).  It could also be concluded that our understanding of no fast on Shabbat refers to any of the man-made fasts in contrast to a commandment by God to fast on a particular day.

Notice the difference in the translation below from an earlier version of the Book of Jubilees translated by George Shodde in 1888 and how the context of the passage is not to harm life on the Sabbath and thus the word instead of fast was actually “contend” meaning “not to strive against, agrue, fight, or even compete against one another (as in sports)” on the sabbath:

“…and everyone that strikes or kills anything, or kills an animal or a bird, and who catches an animal and bird and fish, and who contends or engages in war on the Sabbath day, the man that does any of these things on the Sabbath day, shall die, so that the children of Israel shall observe the Sabbaths, according to the command of the Sabbath of the land, as it is written on the tablets of heaven, which he gave into my hands, that I should write for thee the laws of the times, and the different times in the division of their days.” By Dr. George Shodde in 1888

Beginning in the Evening…

…And you shall afflict your souls in the 9th day of the month in the evening… (Lev. 23:32)

Since the cycle of the day is evening and morning as established in Genisis creation account… the fast begins at the beginning of the 10th of Tishrei which is actually the the evening (sundown) of the the 9th of Tishrei.

“If on the eve of Yom Kippur, one were to contemplate the awesome and holy character of the approaching day, how his repentance is hanging in the balance, he certainly would not be able to put a bite of food in his mouth. (Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk)

Two Shabbat Shabbaton’s on the Same Day:

(This coming Yom Kippur on Shabbat is a very special Shabbat!)

When the two come together the power and depth of holiness is even greater!

Our sages say,

“If only Israel would keep two [consecutive] Shabbats, they would be immediately redeemed”. (Shabbat 118b)

Rabbi Eliezer Ish Horowitz, a disciple of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, offers a compelling interpretation of the passage in this concept; that the “two Shabbats” refer to “two Shabbats which comes together.” That can only be when Yom Kippur falls out on Shabbat. We only need to observe them, putting ourselves into the service of the day with a full heart and keep from becoming distracted.

A Spiritual Feast is better than a Physical Feast!

Fasting in repentance to connect with God on God’s Holy Day connects us to a more beneficial eternal sustainance… and thus is like a Spiritual feast! – Rabbi Isaac Heckman)

According to chassidic teachings, Yom Kippur falling on Shabbat doesn’t “deprive” us of the pleasures of 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, with Spiritual food with even more lasting sustenance!

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 God!

In fact, 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… this is the way Moshe could be in the presence of God on Mount Sinai and not eat or drink for 40 days!  What a great example leading us to “feed the spirit” more than the body thus recreating us back into the selfless loving image of God!

As the Maharal of Prague explains:

“All of the mitzvot that God commanded us on [Yom Kippur] are designed to remove, as much as possible, a person’s relationship to physicality, until he is completely like an angel.”

Just as angels (so to speak) stand upright, so too we spend most of Yom Kippur standing in the synagogue. And just as angels (so to speak) wear white, so too we are accustomed to wear white on Yom Kippur. Just as angels do not eat or drink, so too, we do not eat or drink.

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!

Study by Rabbi Isaac. © 2017 Assembly of Called-Out Believers.
CalledOutBelievers.org. Use by Permission

yom kippur fast

One Comment

  1. Haha Tamara here- I was looking through my emails. Was reading your email about fasting on the sabbath. I realized Our Lord Jesus Christ fasted the forty days in the wilderness which would mean he fasted through several Sabbaths and lived by God’s words alone. Just another thought or example and support for your argument. To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. Shalom. Tamara Mattson.

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