Friday, September 21, 2012

VIDUY:The most important prayer of Yom Kippur

At the individual level, the most important prayer (or Mitzva) of Yom Kippur is the Viduy. Viduy literally means 'confession'.

The Viduy is the admission of the sins and transgressions we might have committed and for which we express regret and we resolve to keep away from.

In the Viduy we clearly say (whispering to ourselves) and articulate our transgressions in the same way one who is addicted to alcohol articulates (not just think!) and say  "I'm an alcoholic" as one of the first steps toward his cure (see here).

Only when we are willing and able to verbally express our sins, it is considered that we have finally admitted them, and then -our Rabbis explain- HaShem accepts our apologies and forgives us.

The Viduy, a long list of possible transgression we might have committed, also helps us identify wrongdoings that we might have forgotten or we might have unconsciously suppressed from our memory.

Unlike other prayers it is absolutely imperative to understand what we are saying in the Viduy. Or else, admission, regret and contrition for our transgressions is not taking place. Therefore, it is not only permitted but almost mandatory to say the Viduy in English if one does not understand Hebrew.

We say the Viduy several times during Yom Kippur, each time a different version. We say it in plural, confessing transgressions that we clearly know we have not committed. This teaches us that our moral responsibilities go beyond our personal realms -when we see a friend acting wrongly we are commanded by the Tora to privately and politely rebuke him or her, and when we don't, it is considered as if we share their wrongdoings.

The Viduy is written in Hebrew, in alphabetical order.

The following text -based on a Sephardic version of a short Viduy used in Selichot- is a non-literal translation of the Viduy. It will hopefully help us understand the main ideas of the Viduy.

This text could be used in Yom Kippur alongside the other Viduyim, especially by those who don't have an English Yom Kippur Machzor.

√ Click HERE to download and print the VIDUY

√ Click HERE to read what you need to know about fasting on Yom Kippur (minors, pregnant women, sickness, how to eat when you need to eat, etc.)

For times of candle lighting, services, Minyanim, etc. 
go to  Kanissanews

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fasting on Yom Kippur (Minors, pregnancy, how to eat when you need to eat? etc.)

There are 5 prohibitions on Yom Kippur. All coming from the Biblical verse in Vayiqra 23:27: On the 10th of Tishri "ve'initem et nafshotekhem"  you should deprive your bodies.
The five prohibitions are:

(1) Eating and drinking, (2) washing our body (3) anointing our body (4) having marital relations and (5) wearing leather shoes.

Everyone has to fast on Yom Kippur, except the following:

1. Minors: a boy or a girl younger than nine years old should not make any type of fast even for a couple of hours. When children reach nine they should fast for a couple of hours if they are in good health. Once they are nine every year the parents should encourage them to fast for a little longer so they will slowly get used to the idea of a complete day of fasting. When the son or daughter reaches eleven years old they should try to fast the whole day if they are in good health. A healthy girl from the age of twelve and a healthy boy from the age of thirteen are obligated to fast.

2. Mothers: After childbirth, during the first three days, a mother should not fast. The same rule applies for the 72 hours after a miscarriage. After the first 72 hours from the day of childbirth until the 7th day from childbirth, if the mother says that she needs to eat, she should eat. After the 7th day she has to fast unless otherwise indicated by a reliable doctor. A woman in labor cannot fast.

3. Sickness: A person who is sick or an elder who is weak because of his age or someone who is getting some type of important medication should get the advice of a reliable physician to see if he needs to eat and/or take the medication. After talking to a physician a Rabbi should be consulted to establish, based on the doctor's advice, how to eat his food. In a case of a chronic illness, such as diabetes, and especially in a case where there is a risk (safek) of some kind of danger to someone's life, one should break the fast, even if one was not able to consult with a physician.

4. According to Jewish Law, if a chole -a sick person- asserts that he or she needs to eat he or she should be fed even without asking a Doctor.

Pregnancy and Yom Kippur

The following information is intended as an educational guideline for normal and healthy pregnancies. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for personal medical advice.

A pregnant woman should observe the fast normally provided she and the baby are in good health. Nevertheless, if during Yom Kippur she feels sick, and particularly if she is vomiting or having other signs of dehydration, she should break the fast and eat immediately (See below: "How to eat"). However, mild dizziness and nausea that can be coped by lying down on a couch or a bed are considered normal and should be endured.

Dr. Jessica Jacob O.B. explains that according to research done on healthy pregnant women, there is no evidence that fasting would cause any complication to the mother or her baby. Four years ago, Dr Jacob gave a very detailed lecture in our community on 'Pregnancy and Yom Kippur'. It is highly recommended for every pregnant women to listen to her lecture where she explains the studies that were done on this subject. She also explains why would a doctor advise a pregnant woman against fasting; how to cope with discomfort; the circumstances in which pregnant women should break the fast, etc.

Click here to listen to Dr. Jacob's lecture


When you were instructed by your doctor to eat on Yom Kippur, proceed as follows 

1. Eat a portion of food that weights less than 1 oz. (an ounce is 30 grams). After you finished the first portion you should wait ten minutes and eat a second portion of less than 1 oz.  You could do this as many time as you need until you recover.

2. For drinking, you should drink up to a little more than 1 oz. Then wait 5 minutes and drink 1 oz. again and so forth.

Once you feel better, you should continue the fast.

To measure "1 ounce" it is recommended to use the plastic 1 oz. liquor shot cups (Kiddush little plastic cups).

When you eat or drink on Yom Kippur for medical reasons, you do not need to fast another day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The fast of Gedalia

 Today, 3rd of Tishri, is the fast of Gedalia. A fast day instituted by the Rabbis to commemorate the assassination of Gedalia Ben Achiqam, the governor of Israel during the days of Nebuchadnetzar King of Babylonia (ca. 580 BCE).  The fast is observed on the day immediately following Rosh haShana.

When Nebuchadnetzar destroyed the Temple (bet haMiqdash) in Yerushalayim (586 BC) and exiled the Jewish people to Babylonia, he allowed a few Jews (mainly poor farmers)  to remain in the land of Israel and appointed Gedalia Ben Achiqam as their governor. As a result, many Jews returned to the land of Israel and worked the land under the auspices of the king of Babylonia. They had a new hope that eventually, more Jews might be able to return to their land.  

Foreseeing this situation the king of the neighboring Ammon sent a loyal Jew, Yishma'el Ben Netania to assassinate Gedalia. In the seventh month (Tishri) Yishma'el came to Gedalia in the town of Mitzpa and was received cordially. Gedalia had been warned of his guests murderous intent, but he refused to believe his informants convinced that a Jew will never kill another Jew, and jeopardize their hopes of redemption.  Yishma'el and ten of his men murdered Gedalia together with most of the Jews who had joined him in Mitzpa and numbers of Babylonians whom the Babylonian king had left with Gedalia. The remaining Jews feared the vengeance of the Babylonian king and fled to Egypt.

The surviving remnant of Jews was thus dispersed and the land of Israel remained virtually without Jews. In remembrance of these tribulations, our Sages instituted the 'Fast of the Seventh' on the day of Gedalia assassination in the seventh month.

The fast is observed from daybreak till the stars appear at night (today, September 19th, 2012 in our community we break the fast at 7.28 pm). 
Adapted from

Who is exempted from fasting today?
Minors: boys under 13 and girls under 12 years old are completely exempted from fasting.
Nursing women: According to the Sephardic Minhag, after giving birth women are exempted from fasting for 24 months, even if they are not actually nursing their baby.
Pregnant women, especially after the first 3 months, are exempted from fasting.
A person who feels sick, for example, flu or fever or one who has a chronic disease, for example, diabetes, should not fast.
Elders should consult with their physicians if the fast will not affect their health. If it will, they are exempted (and in some cases, prohibited) from fasting.