Why Fast on Yom Kippur?

In setting forth the rules of Yom Kippur, the Torah says nothing about refraining from food or drink, only commanding: “You shall afflict yourselves.” Examining talmudic passages in which the rabbis determine that the phrase in fact refers to fasting, Julian Sinclair finds clear hints at the purposes of the practice:

[After arguing over the exact way “to afflict” is to be interpreted as meaning “to fast”], Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Assi share a series of reflections about what happens when desire and fantasy slip out of control and restraints break down: you start to view anyone else’s property as legitimately yours, says Rabbi Ami; you see all the forbidden sexual relationships as fair game, claims Rabbi Assi.

This series of observations ends with a pair of comments about the snake in the Garden of Eden who is cursed that “its bread shall be the dust.” Rabbi Ami interprets: “even if it eats all the delicacies of the world, they taste [to the snake] like dust;” Rabbi Assi says, “even if it eats all the delicacies in the world, it isn’t satisfied until it eats dust.” . . .

I suggest that the rabbis interpret the snake, emblem of untamed desire in Genesis, as an image of addiction. One who surrenders to an insatiable lust for the food, drink, or substance that he craves is fated to a jaded state of sensuous degradation where everything tastes of that one thing or where only that one thing satisfies. . . .

On Yom Kippur, the Talmud is teaching, we withdraw from engagement in the world of eating, drinking, and bodily pleasure. This offers a chance to release ourselves from the thoughts, fantasies, and desires that can so preoccupy us, and rebalance our relationship to eating.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Talmud, Yom Kippur


Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship