Preparing for Yom Kippur

The Arba’a Turim began the halachos of Yom Kippur by citing our Sages’ statement: “If a person eats and drinks on the ninth [of Tishrei], in the Torah’s view it is as if he had fasted on the ninth and the tenth.” He commented, “This is an expression of G-d’s love for the nation of Yisrael. He commanded them to eat and drink first so that they would have the strength to bear the fast without endangering themselves.”

The Shulchan Aruch wrote (Siman 608): “On the day before Yom Kippur a person should eat only foods that are digested quickly and easily. In this way, he will not feel fully satisfied and self-assured to the point of arrogance when he prays.”

It behooves every intelligent person to manage his eating and drinking on this day in the proper manner. One must be aware that not simply filling one’s belly, but eating protein, and chewing one’s food properly, will give one the strength to bear the fast.

In preparation for fasting, one must begin hydrating one’s body starting on the morning of 8 Tishrei. One should drink 50 percent more on that day than one does on other days. Likewise, by noon on 9 Tishrei, one should drink at least as much as one usually drinks in a full day. If one finds it difficult to drink so much, it might help to add a bit of non-sweetened apple juice concentrate to the water.

It is acceptable to drink a cup or two of water before the seudah hamafsekes, the final meal of 9 Tishrei, as well, but the main drinking in preparation for the fast needs to be well in advance of that time. One should drink in the morning, but at least 10 minutes before one begins to eat breakfast. During the day, one should stop drinking no less than 20 minutes before beginning a meal. Also, one should not drink for two hours after finishing a meal. These rules apply to the final meal as well; one should not drink after that meal. Whenever drinking, it is advisable to use large pint-glasses to help keep track of how much one drinks.

The preparation involving eating protein begins on 8 Tishrei as well. Starting that morning, one should eat 50 percent more protein than usual. On a regular day, one should eat one-tenth of one percent of one’s weight in protein. For example, if someone weighs 120 pounds, he should eat just under two ounces. of protein a day. On 8 Tishrei, however, he should eat almost three ounces of protein. On 9 Tishrei, he should eat the regular two ounces of protein through the day, including the final meal.

Most packaged foods list the amount of protein they contain on the label. An average egg contains eight grams of protein, while an average portion of fish, chicken or meat contains between 20 and 35 grams, depending on its size. Chickpeas and rice are also high in protein content.

Besides this, it is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables through the day, and to chew one’s food slowly and thoroughly, without speaking while eating. One should minimize the use of salt all year, but certainly on the day before a fast. Likewise, an abundance of spices makes one thirsty even without salt. Overeating also increases one’s thirst.

One should minimize the consumption of starches, such as potatoes, since they demand insulin for their digestion. Of course, one should avoid any fatty or fried foods. For dessert, I recommend a baked apple. It is a good idea to brush one’s teeth before the fast, just as one would do any other day.

During Yom Kippur one should avoid prolonged standing, since that could harm the veins in the legs. At the same time, one should avoid sitting in one position for a long time, and should certainly not postpone relieving oneself when one feels an urge to do so.

The sefer Pele Yo’etz offers sound advice on preparing for the fast: “As an expression of G-d’s love for His people, He commanded us to eat a lot on 9 Tishrei in preparation for fasting, as a father cares for his son. He told us to eat so that we will have the strength to fast.

“The wise person will schedule the bulk of his eating in the morning, so that there will be time for his stomach to digest it and empty itself during the day. After eating he should lie down and rest for a while, so that he will have the strength to endure the rigors of the Yom Kippur services.

“He should sit down to eat the final meal while there is still plenty of time left in the day, so that he can eat a leisurely meal and allow his body to complete the initial stages of digestion before he goes to the synagogue. The final meal should consist of a limited amount of highly nutritious food, such as a hearty soup and a bit of chicken.”

After the fast one should first drink water, and only 10 minutes later should one begin to eat. One should not eat quickly, and one should chew one’s food thoroughly. Do not eat too much at once. One should begin with light foods, such as fruits and vegetables, then add some foods that are high in protein. By making sure all our actions are for the sake of Heaven, we can hope to be signed and sealed for a good year. (From the sefer Chaim Bre’em K’Halachah, Chapter 15.)