a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

What To Expect:Yom Kippur Fasting 101

Posted on: September 19, 2012

You made it through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is looming on the horizon. If it’s your first Yom Kippur I’m not going to lie, it’s a little bit intimidating. If you’re into the visuals-the book of life is wide open and as we get closer and closer to the end of service it’s like watching the book slowly close to be locked until next year. Am I in it? Will I live or will I die? And if I die will it be in some horrible, bloody painful way? Hail? Fire? Sword?

Did I atone for all of my sins? Did I forgive everyone I needed to forgive? Did I ask forgiveness of people I should’ve asked forgiveness of?  Did I throw enough pieces of bread into the river?

Gosh, Rosh Hashanah is uplifting.

Or you may be thinking-what’s it all for? And how in the hell am I going to get through a 26 hour fast?! I try to resist the urge to complain about Yom Kippur fasting, especially since Muslims fast for 30 days, but in a world where religious fasting is few and far between for most people-26 hours can feel like a small lifetime. Especially when you’re trying to get out of synagogue and into a car/bus/train to get home to stuff your face full of food.

This will be my third Yom Kippur fast and I’d like to say last year was easier than the first but I’d be lying. In the hopes of being more prepared I decided to start planning a bit earlier this year and spent some time sifting through fasting on Yom Kippur articles and blog posts. Below is what I’ve gleaned from my web search.

1.Drink a lot of water

According to every website I’ve read drinking a lot of water before Yom Kippur is essential to getting through the fast. Some websites suggest you start drinking extra water right about now and others suggest you start drinking at least two quarts a day two days before the fast.

2. Cut out caffeine and alcohol (and anything else really delicious and addictive)

The headaches, nausea and dizziness are often caused by withdrawal of a caffeine habit and not from the lack of food and water. I beg to differ, I think it’s the lack of food, but I could be wrong.

If you’re a coffee in the morning and another mid-morning and another by lunch type of person, like my dear sweet partner, today would be a good day to taper off. Make the coffee weaker tomorrow, cut back on quantity and hopefully by Sunday you can survive without your normal dose.

Same goes for alcohol-which is more of a problem for me. I love to enjoy a glass of wine at night, two after an especially tiring day, but this week wine consumption will just be on Shabbat-hopefully not a lot and hopefully drinking the extra water will compensate for the glass I’m planning on having tonight.

3. Ease off salty foods and sugary foods

Both make you thirsty-starting to get them out of your system before Kol Nidre is a good idea.

Pre Fast Meals

There are lots of different theories. Some sites recommend loading up on complex carbs, others recommend eating meat and potatoes, others recommend laying off veggies that go through your system quickly while others still recommend eating veggies. Some recommend eating a larger lunch and a smaller dinner and still others recommend varying your diet the week before to get your body off of an eating “schedule”.

My recommendation-don’t eat too much. I’m sort of tapering off heavy foods this week and making my diet more fruit and vegetable based. A friend once told me that going into a fast with a cleansed system is much easier than going into a fast with a lot of heavy foods in your system. I’m not cleansing in a diet sense, but I’m definitely eating mostly salad and fruit and plan to do some serious juicing this week.

During Yom Kippur

The morning of Yom Kippur last year I cheated and took vitamins with water. I reasoned that taking my vitamins was a good idea and that I needed the water to help get them all down. Granted, some vitamins shouldn’t be taken on an empty stomach. I also cheated and drank some water in the shower, though some religious Jews do not wash or brush their teeth on Yom Kippur.

Once I was in the building I focused on the day and tried my best not to think about food. I didn’t talk about food and I didn’t wear a watch. I didn’t want to focus on the time remaining in service or the time that had already passed I just wanted to focus on the moment. It’s hard-I’m not going to lie, but it’s not supposed to be easy. And really, it’s just one day.


Most services break in the middle of the day and people will either leave the synagogue or location service is being held to go home to nap. Some people stay put and take naps in the sanctuary-which is what I did last year. Naps are good and they make the fast seem shorter because you’re sleeping for a portion of it.

Don’t beat yourself up. If you can’t make it through the entire day don’t stress about it too much, especially if it’s your first year fasting. Leave the sanctuary and have a little snack to tide you over and get back in the game, though this may make you more hungry. If you’ve put in the work and you’re ready to dip out, dip out. If you take a sip of water, don’t worry about it. The fast is about you-do what you can and if you can, stretch yourself for the day, and if you can’t make the entire thing you can’t make the entire thing. There are lots of other fasts throughout the year and you can always try again next year.

Break Fast

Don’t go too crazy eating lots of food right away, you may get sick. Instead drink some water, something with carbohydrates or electrolytes and slowly get some food in your system.

Here are some more tips from Facebook:

Go to sleep early on Yom Kippur and take an afternoon nap. The hardest part of fasting post-kids isn’t having to feed them, it is not being able to sleep the fast away.

Loads of water the day before and a long nap during the day.

Don’t stuff yourself the night before! I would slowly start to eat smaller meals with an equal amount of calories. After all, it’s only one day.

If you drink caffeine at all, starting paring back now. Eat a protein-heavy, sodium-low meal as your last meal.

Drink lots and lots of water before hand. I usually try to drink 4 32 oz cups before fasting. try to reduce salt, eliminate caffeine a week before help me too.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I cannot stress that enough. Also, be sure to carboload. Decrease salt. Eat something that is filling and nutritionally loaded (don’t do what I did a couple years ago and go out for Sushi as your last meal before the fast!!)

Hydrate, and don’t really eat more than you normally would, or you will be overly hungry the next morning. Just relax, it will all be over in 25 hours.

Read more tips from The Jewish Outreach Institute, Judaism 101, About.com and tips from a doctor.

7 Responses to "What To Expect:Yom Kippur Fasting 101"

[…] At Black, Gay and Jewish: What To Expect:Yom Kippur Fasting 101 […]

thank you so much for this even though i am just seeing this it will be helpful especially the fruits and veggies piece

Do what you can. No one should be judging you or focusing on you and your fast.

[…] At Black, Gay and Jewish: What To Expect: Yom Kippur Fasting 101 […]

well this is my first time. I am not of jewish religion but I was told there was jewish blood in my family and a lot of them I don’t know but ive seen some and they look jewish. but I am a lot of german too. weird..anyways I am taking this vow to fast for 24 hours as a Gentile. A woman who believe Jesus was the Messiah. I understand why the Jews don’t believe it because it goes against the Torah and God is one there is no Trinity but in your Torah in Genesis who was God talking to when he he said “Let US make man in Our Image..Get it? us and our? hmmm I don’t understand why the Jewish people are still waiting for a young woman not a virgin to have a baby boy named Immanuel Not Jesus. Do you know how many people have that name now? And yes it goes against the Torah on how and when he died because of trials only being on a Monday or Thursday and Jesus was arrested the night before the Sabbath. This is because the Jews did not want to think they were going against the Torah so they gave Jesus to the Romans to be crucified. Jews don’t want to take responsibility that they killed their own Messiah but they are still the chosen ones. It doesn’t make sense to keep waiting for a young mother to call her boy Immanuel because it been done over and over already. The proof in the trinity that there is There is the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit lies in Genesis as I stated above. And if his blood line is so important do your real history and research. Maybe it was Mary who was the descendant not Joseph. God put in the Bible what we needed to know at the time same goes for the Torah. Jesus did not come here to change the law. He came here to fufill it!!!
Peace be with you all
Love and harmony to all

A lot of faiths fast-Jews, Christians and Muslims and it’s great that you’ve decided to do so.
As far as your other comments about Jesus, Mary and the Trinity – I would encourage you to do a bit more reading about Judaism and read beyond the Torah-the Talmud is filled with amazing commentary about Bereshit and most of the rabbis and Talmudic scholars believe that Gd is talking to Gd or that Gd is talking to angels.

I think the notion that Jews killed Jesus is an antiSemitic one that has a lot of problems-it was actually one of the questions that I struggled with when I was a Christian. How could a people as lowly as the Jews were to Rome have killed a man? Jews did not kill Jesus, the Romans did.

I don’t use my blog as a place for arguments nor a place to put one faith above another-I think there is much to be learned from all faiths-monotheistic, earth-based, Eastern thought. Indeed, I think we have a lot to learn from those who are agnostic and those who are atheists as well.

I, or course, welcome you to read my blog and to comment where you see fit, but please keep in mind that this place is not a place of judgement it’s a place of learning.

Lastly, Jesus didn’t come up with the “Golden Rule” it was, in fact, the rabbi Hillel who lived during Jesus’ time and was most likely a teacher (which is what rabbi means) to Jesus. Hillel said to love your neighbor before Jesus did. This is not a jab, it’s just a reminder to do what it is that Judaism instructs us to do-learn!

I also forgot to mention I am having such a hard time during this fast. Not because of food I am pretty good at staying away from food its the smoking and I have medical conditions that make my mouth so awefully dry. I had to take my meds this morning so I did get to wet my mouth. I only have 12 hours left. Please God give me comfort and keep evil away because I am doing this to prove to Him that I am serious. I want atonement for everything I have done. I want to be washed white as snow. And I also want to prove my love and belief in The Father the Son and the Holy Spirit.
This means more to me than just a holiday that comes and goes as with other traditions.
God bless you all
The greatest commandment to be fulfilled by the Law is to love one another. Stated in the New Testament

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