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Q & A: A Matter Of Custom? (Part I)


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QUESTION: We are a happy newly married couple who have a few disagreements concerning the upcoming holidays. My wife  insists that on Erev Yom Kippur there is no need to eat more than one meal – right before the fast. She also insists that there is no need for her to eat in the sukka on Sukkot, while my custom is for a woman to do so. Who is correct?
Name withheld by request
ANSWER: I am not sure I understand your wife’s first statement properly. Does she mean that you are not obligated to eat more than one meal on Erev Yom Kippur or does she mean that she is not obligated to eat more than one meal on Erev Yom Kippur? Her second statement I do understand – she feels she is not duty bound by halacha to eat in the sukka.
Hopefully our discussion will clarify these matters.The Torah (Leviticus 23:27) states as follows: “Ach be’asor lachodesh ha’shevi’i hazeh yom hakippurim hu, mikra kodesh yihyeh lachem ve’innitem et nafshoteichem vehikravtem isheh l’Hashem – But on the 10th day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement, it is a holy day for you; you shall afflict your souls and offer a sacrifice by fire before Hashem.” We also find another verse (infra 23:32): “Shabbat shabbaton hu lachem ve’innitem et
nafshoteichem betish’a lachodesh ba’erev, me’erev ad erev tishbetu shabbat’chem – A Sabbath of rest it shall be for you and you shall afflict your souls on the ninth day of the [seventh] month, from evening until evening you shall rest for your Sabbath.”

The Gemara (Berachot 8b) cites R. Chiyya b. Rav of Difti (Dibta, on the Tigris River), who finds difficulty with the juxtaposition of these two verses, since the second verse appears to say that the fast is on the ninth day! But surely it is on the tenth day, as stated in the first verse. The verses can even be interpreted to mean that we have to fast on the ninth day and on the tenth day of Tishrei! Therefore, we must say that it comes to teach that whoever eats (feasts) and drinks on the ninth day, the verse accounts it to him as if he fasted on both the ninth and the tenth.

Based on this Gemara we find the following in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayyim 604, Hilchot Yom Hakippurim): “It is a mitzva to eat on the day preceding Yom Kippur and to feast elaborately.”

We find further (Orach Chayyim 607): “One must confess at [the] Mincha [Amida], before the
se’uda mafseket [the meal before the fast, when we cease any further eating]; the individual confesses at the end of his Amida, and the chazzan [in his repetition] says the confession as part of the Amida on Yom Kippur [but not at Mincha on Erev Yom Kippur].”

The Magen Avraham explains that the confession is said at the end of Mincha before the
se’uda “in case he suffers a mishap during the course of the meal [possibly rendering himself unclean], and he will be unable to confess [in the remaining time before Yom Kippur].”

From these two statements of the Mechaber we might infer that there are a minimum of two se’udot on Erev Yom Kippur, since we note that one of the general characteristics of the day is to feast elaborately – which would seem to take place in the course of the day – and then we mention a specific se’uda which is eaten as we prepare to fast.

Indeed, in Likutei Maharich – by the Gaon R. Yisrael Chaim Friedman, zt”l, Rav of Rachov,
originally published in Marmorosh, Hungary - Seder Erev Yom Hakippurim, the author notes that in the first statement both the Mechaber and the Tur (Orach Chayyim 604) refer to se’udat shacharit – the morning meal. Some of the items eaten are described – and we realize that it is not a breakfast of cereal and milk but an elaborate meal. The second statement (Orach Chayyim 607) clearly refers to the second meal, the se’uda mafseket.

In Orach Chayyim (608) mention is also made of certain foods that are inappropriate to eat on Erev Yom Kippur, such as dairy foods, but these foods may be eaten at the morning meal.

Thus, we see references to the need for two se’udot on Erev Yom Kippur. Your question does not address your requirement to eat two meals – and indeed you must eat two meals – but rather your wife’s requirement on that day.

We find in the commentary Chochmat Shlomo (by R.Shlomo Kluger, 1785-1869, which is printed in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 604) that in 1826 R. Kluger was asked the following question: Are women included in the positive command to eat on Erev Yom Kippur or not, as it is a “mitzvat aseh sheha’zeman grama – a positive command that is time-determined” [and women are exempt from this category of mitzvot]?

The response R. Kluger gave was that the answer is apparent from Tractate Sukka (28b),
where the Gemara derives that women are included in “innui tosefet Yom Hakippurim – physical deprivations that commence at the eve of Yom Kippur just before nightfall.” R. Kluger notes that since there is no Biblically stated punishment and warning (onesh ve’az’hara) for the deprivations, one might think (erroneously) that women are not included. However, women are included among those who must deprive themselves physically on Yom Kippur proper. Their inclusion is derived from the word “ha’ezrach” in the verse “Basukkot teshvu
shiv’at yamim, kol ha’ezrach be’yisrael yeshvu basukkot – In booths shall you dwell for seven days, all who sojourn in Israel shall dwell in booths” (Leviticus 23:42).

Therefore we might think that women would be excluded from the mitzva to eat on Erev Yom Kippur, which does not include a Biblical warning and punishment either. In actuality, the requirement applies to them, just as we see that on Passover (see Pesachim 43a) women are obligated to eat matza because eating matza is derived from a hekesh – an analogous comparison to the prohibition of eating chametz (leaven). Women are indeed included in the
latter. The verse (Deuteronomy 16:3) states, “Lo tochal alav chametz, shiv’at yamim tochal alav matzot… – You shall not eat leavened bread with it [the paschal offering], for seven days you shall eat matzot…”

The hekesh of matza and chametz teaches us that all who are prohibited in the consumption of
chametz are required to eat matza.

The Gemara bases the requirement that women are prohibited to eat chametz on the verse (Numbers 5:5): “… Ish o isha ki ya’asu mikol chatot ha’adam lim’ol ma’al b’Hashem ve’ashma hanefesh hahee – Any man or woman who shall transgress any of the sins of man by betraying Hashem, he/she shall incur guilt.” Thus, we see that men and women are equally liable for all transgressions committed.

Similarly, adds R. Kluger (Chochmat Shlomo), since it states “ve’innitem et nafshoteichem… – You shall afflict your souls on the ninth of the month in the evening, from evening to evening you shall rest for your Sabbath (the Sabbath of Yom Kippur),” we make a similar hekesh that whoever is obligated in the deprivations (afflictions) from evening to evening, which include tosefet Yom Hakippurim, is surely included in the eating requirement on Erev Yom Kippur. Indeed, R. Kluger concludes that women are required to feast on the eve of Yom Kippur just as men are.

(To be continued)

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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