Sorry to bring this subject up at the last minute, but because of the speed of the Virus news, I didn’t consider this until the last minute.
This is the last minute, today or tomorrow is the fast, depending on when you read this. Do you need to fast or not? Like everything else in the world, it depends on who you are.
Only a Jew has to keep 613 mitzvahs, a Gentile does not. A women keeps less stringencies than a man about many religious practices as she is not obligated in many (some she is) time bound mitzvah, and a Slave (though we don’t have any more) even less.
Judaism is the world’s oldest monotheistic religion, dating back nearly 4,000 years. Followers of Judaism believe in one God who revealed himself through ancient prophets. The history of Judaism is essential to understanding the Jewish faith, which has a rich heritage of law, culture and tradition.
Over the 4000 years we have had many times questions about whether a fast is cancelled or not either for medical conditions or over the safety of the Jewish People as other nations like to threaten us with either loss of life or property.
Judaism believes in the principle that life comes first in most instances (not all as there are three primary exceptions–violating believes in Idolatry, Harming others, or sexual immorality may supersede life).
So when life is at stake, the fast may have to go. The fast of Esther is a Rabbinic Fast, not a Torah Fast, so since it was created by the Rabbis, the Rabbis have the right to make the rules about who has to keep it.
So to answer the question, about keeping the fast we turn to history. The Place we start is about the most serious Torah Fast, Yom Kippur. If that fast can be put off, than certainly a less serious fast can be put off.
Rabbis and doctors have always considered the weighty issue of fasting.
Whether an elderly person should eat or drink on Yom Kippur depends on whether he is healthy or fragile.
Although religion should promote good health, sometimes the two can clash. In such cases – for example, religious fasts – clergymen and doctors should intervene to ensure that patients are not harmed.
“The fast was initiated by the G-d (or in the case of Tannit Esther the Rabbis), “but it is meant for healthy adults, not for the sick or for children or pregnant or lactating women. If you can’t fast for health reasons, it’s just as good to give charity instead.”
RABBI YOSEF Zvi Rimon, the rabbi of JCT (The Jerusalem College of Technology, an Orthodox Jewish educational institution in the Givat Mordechai neighborhood) and head of its Beit Midrash, noted that “medicine develops all the time. Doctors may have said something 20 years ago, and rabbis gave halachic rulings on the basis of that, but maybe the information is obsolete. The principles of Jewish law are the same, but conclusions may be wrong because doctors made statements based on medical evidence and research at the time
One has to go deeper.” The rabbi produced a pamphlet with guidelines for patients on Yom Kippur fasting.“It there is doubt, one must consult with a rabbi. If it is impossible and there is a real doubt [about whether the fast will cause harm], one should not fast and not endanger life, even if there is no immediate danger but only one that is distant. A patient must not risk his or her health and fast in contravention of doctor’s orders.”
The rabbi added that if one’s doctor and rabbi say the patient can fast, except to drink small amounts of water every nine (or even six) minutes, the permitted amount of water is easy to measure. Fill your mouth with as much water as you can and then spit it out into a cup. Half of that amount can be drunk every nine minutes by chronic patients who need to hydrate themselves. The average amount is 38 milliliters and should be less than 44 milliliters.
If necessary, to provide sick people with more energy, they can drink a sweet beverage or soup in intervals, Rimon continued. If a patient has to eat at intervals as well, the food should be able to fit inside an Israeli-style matchbox. A patient is allowed to take a shower on Yom Kippur to refresh himself (it is forbidden to healthy people) if he needs it to fast, and is advisable over eating and drinking if the doctor permits.
It is preferable to stay home, pray and fast, if permitted by a doctor or rabbi, rather than go to synagogue and forgo the fast. Pregnant and lactating women who are healthy usually are bound to fast (unless the new mother cannot produce enough milk for the baby), but pregnant women should consult with authorities on whether going without food and drink would harm them or the fetus. Chronically ill patients who must take pills during the fast are advised to take them without water, but if this is impossible, they should do so in a different way, such as adding a bit of salt or something bitter, the rabbi suggested.
DR. EPHRAIM Jaul, director of complex geriatric nursing at Jerusalem’s Herzog Hospital, said that ironically, there were many recommendations for vaccination for babies and children up to the age of 18, but only one recommended vaccination (against pneumonia) for those over 65.
“Old age is the most heterogeneous condition, but it is treated as homogeneous.” He urged pensioners to walk fast to improve their heart, brain and gastrointestinal systems, as well as to do mental exercises.
CALLING A person “old” should not be determined by his chronological age but more exactly by his biological age, said Prof. Tzvi Dwolatzky, an expert in geriatrics and internal medicine at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center. “It used to be that kidney-failure patients were not sent to dialysis after the age of 75. Today, one can be 85 or more and still undergo it. The decision is made according to the biological age of the patient,” he said, showing a photo of an 89-year-old woman who piloted a plane, and of Jeanne Louise Calment, a French woman who lived to the age of 122 and of a Holocaust survivor and Israeli named Yisrael Kristal, who died recently at the age of 113.
Whether an elderly person should eat or drink on Yom Kippur, said Dwolatzky, depends on whether he is healthy or fragile (living at the edge of his abilities and could fall at a slow walking speed). “From my experience, most old people fast better than young persons.
”DEHYDRATION FROM fasting is a significant risk in elderly patients, noted Dr. Ephraim Rimon of the Hartzfeld Geriatric Hospital in Gedera, who happens to be the older brother of Rabbi Rimon.
“One should drink three liters of water during the 24 hours before a fast, but it’s hard for the elderly to drink so much. If a patient is dehydrated, the risk of a heart attack or stroke is higher. An elderly person who wants to fast and drink at intervals may forget to drink water and them harm himself.
”He told the story of Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld of the Eda Haredit who learned of a blind woman who was fasting and endangered her health. “He came to her and blew the shofar during the fast and told her it was night and the fast was all over.
But every case is different.”DR. RABBI Mordechai Halperin, head of Jerusalem’s Schlesinger Institute for Medical-Halachic Research, added that a patient with irregular heartbeats can even die if he fasts.
“If we make an error in our guidelines, we are spilling blood. If a person is sick and at risk, he doesn’t need to drink at intervals. He should eat. If based on medical evidence, a person could be harmed by the fast, he must eat.
”THE ONLY part of the body that needs carbohydrates is the brain, said Prof. David Zangen, a senior endocrinologist at Hadassah University Medical Center.“When you haven’t eaten for hours and the blood sugar level is low, the liver will release sugar from the liver to reach the brain rather than to remain in storage.
If there isn’t enough, a patient can fall and be seriously hurt.”Working with observant adolescents with type-1 diabetes, Zangen asked if they intended to fast on Yom Kippur. Thirty-nine of 190 said they would fast no matter what the doctor said.
“They want to be like all the others, but it could be dangerous. Those who nevertheless insist on fasting are advised to check their blood sugar every 2.5 hours and to start eating if they have nausea, vomiting or hyperglycemia. A diabetic should always consult their personal physician, as he or she knows the medical condition well.”
Now let us turn to the current issue, not just of health, but of an epidemic condition (Bibi reports today in the Paper that this is an epidemic Condition-good enough for me). One of the most famous cases was:
Following Shacharit on Yom Kippur of 5610, in
September 1849, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, the famous
and pious Vilna rabbi -founder of the Mussar Movement,
dedicated to injecting the pursuit of ethical excellence
into traditional Jewish observance, ascended to the bimah of the Vilna synagogue.
He explained to the congregation that because of the
raging cholera epidemic in Vilna,
they must not spend the day gathered together
in the synagogue, but should leave the building and walk
outside -fresh air was believed to prevent the spread of
Furthermore,he said, it was imperative that everyone
maintain their strength so that they would not fall victim
to disease. And so, on that Yom Kippur, Rabbi Yisrael
Salanter explained, everyone should break their fast,
eat and drink so that they could protect their health
and survive the disease.
Cholera is a horrific disease. It is painful, terrifying,
and deadly. The Hebrew word for cholera- רעחולי sounds
similar to “cholera” but more literally can be translated
as “evil disease.”
Over the course of the 19thcentury, modern medical
science learned how to prevent the spread of cholera,
and also how to effectively treat cholera.
However, in 1849, in Eastern Europe, nobody knew how
the disease spread and there were no effective
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was one of the most
famed rabbis of Vilna.
He threw himself into the fight against the disease.
He volunteered to care for the sick, and was
instrumental in organizing the Jewish community
to take care of the sick and to watch over orphans
left behind in the wake of the disease
Harav Yosef Ote says
Ta’anit Esther begins at 4:45. Ends at 18:10.
Concerning Ta’anit Esther, a person in isolation should not fast, so as not to weaken his immune system, since there is a chance that he is infected or can infect others
Other Doctors and Rabbis have stated that anyone over 60 is at great risk from the new flue (younger people don’t seem to be as effected). It is not much of a stretch than to Poskin, that even if you are in good health, anyone over 60 should not fast, and of course if you are not in good health, no matter what your age you should not fast. Either go to the synagogue or not (some are afraid of the potential virus in crowds), but as my Grandfather who lived to a ripe old age used to tell me, Stay home, take a bath, safe money and be healthy!
Rabbi Yehuda Lave