Why Fasting is Not Enough


Sponsored by Isaac and Amy Halickman in Honor of Their Children

Allison, Daniel, Jonathan (Yoni), Elizabeth and Jennifer



On Yom Kippur we read the Haftara which comes from Yishayahu 57:14-58:14. The Haftara is appropriate for Yom Kippur as it teaches us the proper way to do Teshuva  (repent). Yishayahu makes it very clear that fasting and prayer are not enough. Rather, we must change our ways and help those who are less fortunate.


In sentences 58:6-12 we are told the proper way to behave as well as how we will be rewarded:


“Surely this is the fast I choose: open the bonds of wickedness, dissolve the groups that pervert justice, let the oppressed go free and annul all perverted justice. Surely you should divide your bread with the hungry and bring the moaning poor to your home; when you see the naked, cover him and do not ignore your kin. Then your light will burst forth like the dawn and your healing will speedily sprout; then your righteous deed will precede you and glory of God will gather you in. Then you will call and God will respond, you will cry out and He will say ‘Here I am!’ if you remove from your midst perversion, finger-pointing and evil speech. And if you offer your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light will shine in the darkness and the deepest gloom will be like noon. Then God will guide you always, sate your soul in times of drought and strengthen your bones; and you will be like a well watered garden and a spring whose waters never fail. Age old ruins will be rebuilt through you, you will erect generations old foundations and they will call you ‘repairer of the breach, restorer of paths of habitation.’”


Unfortunately, even in the modern State of Israel, we still have to work on many of the points on this list. We still have to deal with the perversion of justice. The government does not do enough for the poor so each of us must make an effort to help feed the hungry and clothe the poor. The challenge of not speaking Lashon Hara (Evil Speech) is also something that still needs to be worked on.


We learn from here that the message of Yom Kippur is not just about fasting. The message is about changing our ways and making a commitment to help others not just during the High Holiday season, but throughout the year. By doing so, we will bring blessings upon ourselves, the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.