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By Glen Pickus
Temple Beth Or 

Choosing to fast on Yom Kippur l Worship


Last updated 9/25/2019 at 12:28pm

"Is this not the fast I have chosen?” (Isaiah 58:6).

Jews hear these words every year at services on Yom Kippur which starts at sunset on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Jews fast on Yom Kippur because the Torah tells us, “On the tenth day of the same seventh month (the Hebrew date for Yom Kippur) you shall observe a sacred occasion when you shall practice self-denial” (Numbers 29:7).

Fasting is the most common expression of self-denial on Yom Kippur, but self-denial also includes refraining from enjoying luxuries such as wearing leather shoes and jewelry, bathing, wearing perfume or lotions, and sexual pleasure.

While Jews choose to fast, millions of Americans don’t have a choice and are forced to fast throughout the year.

That’s why the annual Temple Beth Or food drive is held during the Ten Days of Repentance or the Days of Awe; the period from Rosh Hashanah, which starts at sunset on Sunday Sept. 29, through Yom Kippur.

We hold the food drive during this time in acknowledgement of those who have no choice in their fast.

It’s difficult to understand why people go hungry in our midst given the abundance of food in the region and the country.

One reason might be because nearly 40% of the food produced here ends up in landfills.

Reducing the waste might help the 1 in 8 Americans who struggle with hunger.

The Yom Kippur fast is an exercise in self-control. By depriving ourselves of what we need most – food and drink – we prove to ourselves that we are more able than we realize to control our other inclinations throughout the year that might lead us to behave badly.

To fast on Yom Kippur is also an act of solidarity with those who are suffering. Through fasting we are drawn closer to all who live lives of deprivation.

Our faith demands more of us than 24 hours of abstinence from food. It demands that upon the completion of our fast we turn back to the world prepared to act with love and compassion. In this way fasting touches the biological as well as the spiritual aspects of our being.

Nobody deserves to be hungry and ending hunger in Western Washington is possible.

Temple Beth Or’s food drive donations are given to the Volunteers of American food bank in Everett. In recent years, many members opt to make monetary donations instead of sacks of groceries. Either way helps.

Some of us also donate to Mazon, a Jewish response to hunger. Inspired by Jewish values and ideals, Mazon is a national advocacy organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel.

You don’t have to be a member of Temple Beth Or to help fight hunger. Consider donating to VOA ( or Mazon (

Learn more about how Temple Beth Or practices tikkun olam, making the world a better place, by visiting our website at


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