Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean suffering. There’s quite a bit we can do to alleviate the bodily and mental stress that normally accompanies a fast. The day before the fast, follow the following guidelines:
1. Cut down your caffeine intake to minimize headaches. That means stop drinking coffee, tea, and cola at least eight hours before the fast, and preferably twenty-four hours before the fast.
2. Avoid salty, spicey, and fried foods on the day before the fast.
3. Avoid white sugar, white flour, and white rice. Eat whole-grained foods such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread or challa.
4. Drink a lot of water all day long.
5. Eat a good breakfast that includes fruits, veggies, eggs or sardines, and whole grains.
6. The pre-Yom Kippur meal (se'uda mafseket) should include baked or broiled fish, a veggy salad, consomme, a small portion of chicken or turkey, and a side dish of complex carbohydrates. Substitute sweet deserts with watermelon or other water-retaining fresh fruit, and a cup of herb tea with a whole-grain cookie.
On Yom Kippur:
7. The more you immerse yourself in prayer, the less you'll think about food.
8. Rest between prayers. Don’t run around outside, especially in the hot sun. Save your voice for prayers. Idle talking will make you thirstier, and will detract from the holiness of the day.
After the fast:
9. Drink two glasses of water, and then eat solids gradually, so as not to shock the digestive system. Begin with fruit, like plums or grapes. The worst thing people do is to consume pastries and soft drinks, or “lekach un bronfan” (cake and liquor) right after the fast (these are unhealthy anytime, all the more so right after the fast when they give your body a shock of glucose).
10. Forty-five minutes to an hour afterwards, one can eat a balanced meal with protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables. After eating, relax for an hour with your favorite book (preferably Gemara of the laws of Succoth from Shulchan Oruch) and your favorite beverage, then begin constructing your Succa.
Attention diabetics, heart patients, folks with high blood pressure, and people whose health depends on regular medication - you must be especially careful to ask your doctor if you are capable of fasting, and then consult with your local rabbi, giving him the doctor's exact opinion. For many such people, it is a mitzva not to fast on Yom Kippur.
The Israel Cancer Association recommends that cancer patients not fast without approval from their physicians. Fasting could cause considerable discomfort in cancer patients, who need a lot of liquids to alleviate side effects of chemotherapy. Again, first consult the doctor and then the rabbi. Give the rabbi all the details that you received from the doctor.
This past Tisha B'Av, I policed my synagogue looking for sick people who were fasting without authorization. It's no mitzva to get yourself rushed in an ambulance to the emergency ward because you were fasting without authorization.
Don't let children (boys under the age of 12 or girls under the age of 11) be overzealous. Make sure they eat on time.
With G-d's blessing and the above guidelines, you'll have an easy fast. May all of us be signed and sealed in the Book of Long and Happy Lives, amen.
Wouldn't you like to have the Geula, the full redemption of our people, right now? It's possible, and this week's emuna lesson will explain exactly how you can fast forward into the age of Geula today, with no delay!
Today's shiur (lesson) and live broadcast will take place this evening (Wednesday) at 7:00 PM local time, at our Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva, 13 Shmuel Hanavi Street, Jerusalem, in the main sanctuary. As always, the live shiur is open to the public - both men and women are welcome - so if you're anywhere near Jerusalem, come on by! You can see today's lesson here - the broadcast, as well as our lessons posted from now on - are Mac and iPod compatible. If you tune in too early to the live broadcast link, you'll be sent to the main page of the Breslev Israel website, so try to tune in on time as follows:
9:00 AM in LA and the West Coast, 10:00 AM Denver, 11:00 AM Mexico and Central, 12:00 PM NYC (EST), 5:00 PM in the UK, 7:00 PM Johannesburg and Capetown, 7:00 PM Israel. As soon as we can, G-d willing, we'll post a link to the lesson for all those who couldn't see it live. If you can't see the broadcast, you might need to download a new version of Flash Media player, which you can do here. We hope you enjoy the broadcast.
Yom Kippur is this coming Friday night and Shabbat. People are petrified with fear about Yom Kippur, and I honestly don't know why. All a person needs to know for Yom Kippur - both in his or her relationship with Hashem and in relationships with one's fellow human - are three sincere words: "Please forgive me."
The Gemara says that Yom Kippur is one of the most joyous days in the Jewish calendar, for it's a day when we return with all our hearts to Hashem and He forgives us of all wrongdoing. What could be better?
No matter what we've done wrong, there's never room for despair. King Menashe committed some unspeakably serious crimes: He killed his father-in-law, the holy prophet Isaiah. Not only did he worship idols, but he put an idol in the Holy Temple. If Hashem forgave King Menashe, He'll certainly forgive any one of us. Do yourself a favor and read all about it in The Secret Opening, my feature article in this week's Yom Kippur issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.
One of my favorite Yom Kippur parables tells about a bunch of smugglers that got caught. The Fake Funeral is a great story for the whole family, to tell during your pre-fast meal this coming Friday afternoon.
Rav Shalom Arush says that Yom Kippur is a thoroughly enjoyable and gratifying day, especially for the tzaddikim. Many of our holy men said that fasting is much easier than eating in holiness. A person can delight in praying from morning until night while getting a vacation from worrying about what to eat and what to drink. Read more in A License to Eat.
Do you remember Academy-Award winning Hollywood Director Paul Mazursky? His very last film was about Breslev and Uman. See Howard Morton's article, When Hollywood met Uman.
Our cherished friend Ari Goldwag has outdid his normal super-talented self with this beautiful vid and song, "Am Echad" - the words are "one nation with one song, so let's come and be happy together. This is brilliant:
The Beams is happy to take you on a journey of the macrocosm. Now think how Hashem makes the effort to confine Himself within your heart and brain, to make sure they're functioning properly. The author of this presentation probably had no spiritual intentions, but, I find this a mind-boggling aid in contemplating the vastness of Hashem and His lovingkindness. Fad and political correctness can't dispute the truth - Hashem is the King, the Master Creator.
Do you think you know how big Hashem is? He's infinite, beyond anything we can fathom. See for yourself: