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Is It Proper For Children To Eat In Front Of Adults On Yom Kippur?

 

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As a matter of etiquette, the rule at a royal state banquet hosted by the [British] monarch, is that at the moment the monarch puts down his/her fork and knife none may eat further.

I remember my mother, a”h, the youngest of a poor immigrant family, relating numerous food insufficiency stories of her early youth. Her grandmother, Chana Koenigsberg, a”h, cooked and served food out of her apartment for those who could afford to pay her. This was the principal means of her parnasa.

My mother relates how her older sister would go to the grandmother’s house when she was serving food and anxiously stand watching the people eat. Many of them were so taken by this little girl and took pity on her and would give her food from their plate.

It is obvious that when one is fasting watching someone else eat can be very distracting and cause one to be reminded of their hunger.

On the other hand, I remember when I was quite young my grandmother, Tzirel Kirschner, a”h, would cook various delicacies for me, including Hungarian Goulash, ptcha and compote. She wouldn’t eat but derived great satisfaction just watching me eat. It was almost as if she too was eating.

Children who are too young to fast need to be fed and if adults are affected by the young one’s eating, in my humble opinion, it shows a lack of a good heart. Remember those precious young children are our future, treat them as the treasure they are.

Wishing everyone a ksiva v’chasima tova and a very meaningful and easy fast.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass is chairman of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Alliance of America; rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn; and Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com and Rabbi@igud.us.

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From a strict halachic perspective, a child may eat wherever he or she wants on Yom Kippur. However, teaching children (at the appropriate age) to fast in front of adults on Yom Kippur where possible can be valuable for at least two reasons. First, doing so expresses sensitivity. Children understand that some adults may struggle to fast for an entire day on Yom Kippur.

If a child has a special toy that another child very much desires but does not own, then it would be inappropriate for the first child to play with that toy in front of the second child. Similarly, someone who is permitted to eat on Yom Kippur should demonstrate sensitivity and not eat in front of someone who is not permitted to eat then.

Additionally, telling a child not to eat in front of an adult on Yom Kippur can help create a shared Yom Kippur experience for children and adults. The Mishnah Berurah (550:5) writes that on a fast day for the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash we may feed a child, but it is proper to only give him or her the bare necessities so that he or she can mourn with the rest of the community. Based on this logic, teaching our children to fast in front of adults on Yom Kippur where possible allows our children to join with the adults more fully in the Yom Kippur experience.

Rabbi Jonathan Muskat is the rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside, a rebbe at Shulamith High School, and a pastoral health care liaison at Mount Sinai South Nassau.

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