A fascinating overview of Yom Kippur, which explains
how to maximize the spiritual potential of the Day
Questions and Anwers on Yom Kippur
By Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Settling the Land is the Way to Reveal G-d’s Kingdom
But there are also halakhic questions that need answers before the Fast
Accepting God’s Kingdom through Settling the Land
At the beginning of the year, we should return and connect to the most important and primary foundations in our lives – and paramount to all is remembering who are we, what our life is all about, where we came from, where we are going, and the great mission that has been assigned to us. Therefore, first and foremost, we once again accept upon ourselves God’s kingdom.
Correspondingly, in last week’s column, we mentioned the outwardly discernible mitzvoth – for men, wearing ‘tzitziot’ (tassels) on the outside of one’s clothing, and a sizeable ‘kippa’; for women, modest clothing according to halakhah; and for all – responding ‘amen’ out loud, and respect for the ‘beit knesset’ (synagogue).
Some people resented my pointing out mitzvoth that not everyone from the National-Religious public always excels in. Nevertheless, it is precisely the mitzvoth which require strengthening that need to be mentioned.
On the other hand, it is important to add that in general, the mitzvah that best expresses the acceptance of God’s Kingdom in the eyes of the entire world is the mitzvah of ‘yishuv Ha’Aretz’ (settling the Land), which our Sages said is equal to all the other mitzvoth (Sifri, Parshat ‘Re’eh’). And especially today, when many countries in the world accuse us, claiming: ‘You are bandits! You conquered the Arab’s land’, and demand we retreat from the Inheritance of our forefathers, but nonetheless, we stand in opposition to all of them, continuing to settle the Land of Israel, as the Word of God in the Torah and the Prophets.
The Need to Fight for the Land – Revealing God’s Kingdom
In fact, it can and should be argued that, historically speaking, our Rights to the Land of Israel are Superior, because the Arabs themselves conquered the Land some two thousand years after us, turned it into wilderness, and never had an independent state here. In any event, the most basic reply is that of Rabbi Yitzchak, as brought down by Rashi in his first commentary on the Torah:
“The entire world belongs to God. He created it and He has distributed portions of it in accordance with His Plan. Just as He exercised His Authority in granting the Land of Canaan to the seven nations, He exercised that Authority in granting the Holy Land to us” as it is written: “God revealed to His people His glorious creation so that they could receive their rightful Inheritance from the nations of the earth” (Psalms 111:6).
It is similarly explained in the Midrash:
“God said to Israel: I could have created a new land for you, but in order to show you My Strength, I slay your enemies before you, and give you their Land, to fulfill what is written: “God revealed to His People His glorious Creation so that they could receive their rightful Inheritance from the nations of the earth” (Bamidbar Rabba 23:12).
For only in this way will the world be redeemed from all its physical and moral woes. Despite all human attempts to prevent wars and quarrels, hatred and competition, vices still prevail, and humanity fails to be saved from the iniquities of human nature. Only by clinging to the Will of God can the world elevate itself from its small-mindedness, and be redeemed from its misery.
Therefore, everyone must be aware that we have returned to the Land of Israel as God commanded, to reveal goodness and truth to the world. And, lo and behold, after all attempts, it turns out that this is the most convincing reply for the majority of people in the world.
Expansion of the Settlements
Following my article two weeks ago, in which I wrote that our main challenge is to expand Jewish settlement extensively in Judea and Samaria, I received a response from my friend, Rabbi Ya’ir Hiller, expressing his concern about the insufficient rate of growth in the settlements.
Seeing as this is a timely encouragement for the Ten Days of Repentance as well, I present part of his letter: “…The practical objective is to do what you have done on Har Bracha: to build densely populated, high-story buildings, enabling many young couples who cannot find relief from the insane housing prices everywhere, to rent or purchase.
“In my opinion, you should join forces with other public representatives, directly contacting additional local councils, and convince them and their residents about the necessity of the issue for all of Am Yisrael, not to be satisfied building expensive villas for the wealthy alone, but allocate land in every community for cheaper construction, even if this brings to the gates of their communities young families and not affluent ones. This move will solidify the settlements, especially in the outlying areas, and also bring relief to the housing shortage in the greater Tel-Aviv region.”
Indeed, this entreaty is an appropriate one, and hence, I have decided to publish it here. Thank God, for a number of years, residents of Har Bracha have been inspiring other communities to build densely, or at the very least, to build more modestly then in the past. In recent months, some residents have even started a construction company for this purpose, and we hope to hear good news from them soon.
Making Marriages on Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is an able day for prayers and thoughts about making a good match, for oneself, or for his children. On the face of it, a person might think: “Is it fitting on this holy and awesome Day to contemplate such seemingly low matters between husband and wife?” But this is what our Sages said in the Mishna:
“Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said, There were no holidays for Israel as the fifteenth of Av and as Yom Kippur, for on them the daughters of Jerusalem go forth in borrowed white garments, so as not to embarrass whoever does not have… And the daughters of Jerusalem go forth and dance in the vineyard. And what would they say? “Young man, lift up your eyes and see, what you choose for yourself. Do not set your eyes on beauty, set your eyes on the family: ‘Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman that fears the L-rd, she shall be praised’ (Prov. 31:30), and it says, ‘Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates’ (Mishna Ta’anit 4:8).
This was the custom when the Temple was still standing and the ‘Shechinah’ (Divine Presence) rested on Israel and the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur; at that time, Israel could engage in matchmaking in holiness. But today when the Holy Temple is destroyed, we are required to significantly increase our prayers, and the ‘Shechinah’ is not revealed within us; consequently, we can not actually engage in matchmaking on Yom Kippur. Nevertheless, on this Holy Day, it is fitting to pray and contemplate on this important issue.
In particular, a person who has a lot of doubts regarding marriage, and is influenced by external considerations connected to his bad character traits which he has not yet properly corrected, can find the path to discover his match, owing to the holiness of the day.
Restoring ‘Shalom Bayit’
While Yom Kippur is effective in finding a match, it can also be helpful in restoring peace and love between married couples. For sometimes, as a result of failing to remember the Divine destiny of the marriage covenant, difficulties develop between husband and wife causing division. But by means of the Great Repentance of Yom Kippur, they can restore the love and joy between them.
As Rabbi Akiva said: “When husband and wife are worthy, the Shechinah abides with them; when they are not worthy fire consumes them” (Sotah 17a). Rashi explains that God placed His name between them – the Hebrew letter ‘yud’ in the word ‘ish’ (man), and ‘heh’ in the word ‘isha’ (woman) [and without God’s Name, the remaining letters ‘aleph’ and ‘shin’ spell the word ‘esh’, or fire].
Many people make the mistake, thinking that by connecting to learning Torah and performing mitzvoth, love between the couple will be impaired. The truth is the exact opposite – the more they are genuinely connected to religious matters, later on, they will be able to increase happiness and joy between them.
On Yom Kippur it is forbidden for a husband to touch his wife even with his finger (Shulchan Aruch, 615:1), yet, as a result of the holiness and meaningful repentance, they will be able to increasingly deepen their relationship.
Wearing Insoles on Yom Kippur
Q: As all are aware, it is forbidden to wear leather shoes or sandals on Yom Kippur. My question is, what is the halakhah for someone who needs to wear insoles in his shoes, and without them, his feet hurt him extremely, but the insoles are covered with leather?
A: Some halakhic authorities are lenient in this matter, permitting a person who suffers greatly without his insoles, which happen to be covered with leather, to place them in his cloth or rubber shoes, since they are not considered part of the shoe, and it is similar to a person standing on a cushion made out of leather, which is permitted (Rema, 614:2). Additionally, since he suffers greatly, he is in the same category as a person who has to walk in mud, who is permitted to wear shoes (Chelek Yaacov, Vol. 2: 83). One who desires may rely on this opinion.
When purchasing insoles, a person who wishes to ‘l’hader’ (enhance the mitzvah), should ask for insoles without leather, and thus be able to use them on Yom Kippur without concern.
Does a Migraine Sufferer Have to Fast?
Q: Is a person who has migraines, and has suffered several times from an onset of acute headaches as a result of fasting, obligated to fast on Yom Kippur and other fast days?
A: The general rule is that a sick person is exempt from the minor fasts, and even Tisha B’Av. Not only that – even one who as a result of the Fast is liable to become sick and fall ill, is exempt from fasting. Therefore, someone who suffers from migraines, even if at the beginning of the Fast he does not suffer, but knows that as a result of the fast a migraine headache is liable to be triggered, is exempt from the minor fasts and Tisha B’Av.
However, regarding the Fast of Yom Kippur, where even a person who is ill must also fast, one suffering from migraine headaches is obligated to Fast as well – even if it is a strong migraine, ‘kol v’chomer’ (all the more so) in a situation where he is not yet suffering, but rather, the Fast is likely to cause the onset of a migraine headache. And even eating a little at a time, less than a ‘shiur’ [one who eats on Yom Kippur the measurement of a large date is guilty] is forbidden for an ill person, since even eating a little on Yom Kippur is a Torah prohibition.
Additionally, it is worthy to note that in most cases, there are medications, in the form of a suppository or spray, which prevent the onset of migraines until after the Fast.
However, there are rare instances where migraines can cause a stroke, in which case there is a ‘chashash sakanat nefashot’ (a possible life-threatening situation), and in any event, such an ill person is exempt from fasting on Yom Kippur. This is under three conditions:
He has been diagnosed that fasting causes his migraines.
The migraine appears after an aura (a perceptual disturbance experienced by some migraine sufferers before a migraine headache), and the aura lasts for over an hour.
No medications (such as suppositories or sprays) can prevent the onset of the migraine. (This halakhah was written with the assistance of Dr. Rafi Kayam, and in accordance to the opinion of Dr. Rachel Herring, an expert in this field).
It should be added that, when it comes to the type of migraine where ‘sakanat nefashot’ is involved, seeing as the ill person does not need to eat a lot at one time in order to prevent the onset, he must eat a little at a time – less than a ‘shiur’ – for as long as he eats less than a ‘shiur’, he is not considered as having broken the Fast completely.
Q: Is it permissible to use deodorant on Yom Kippur to remove bad odor?
A: One of the five unique prohibitions on Yom Kippur is the prohibition of ‘sicha’ (anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions), which includes the prohibition of anointing even a tiny part of the body with oil or cream, and also the prohibition of using cosmetic products such as powders and oils to beautify one’s skin, or for a pleasant scent (Shulchan Aruch, 614:1).
Anointing in order to remove a bad odor is also prohibited, and in this manner, the prohibition of ‘sicha’ is different from the prohibition of ‘richitza’ (bathing), because regarding ‘richitza’, if one’s clear intention is to remove dirt – washing is permitted. Nevertheless, regarding ‘sicha’, since it is mainly intended for pleasure, even when one’s intention is to remove a bad odor, it is prohibited.
However, if after changing a baby’s diaper a bad smell remains on one’s hands, it is permitted to wash one’s hands with liquid soap, because liquid soap is not considered a cream or oil.