Wednesday, September 23, 2015

To "fast" on Yom Kippur - required or not?

On this blessed Yom Kippur, considered the highest of Holy Days in Judaism and for those of us who seek true obedience to God in the manner He gave to all who are His, a rather disturbing subject has emerged.  That subject is whether or not Yom Kippur calls for a day of fasting.

Seems that many out there, some well  respected, are spreading the argument that a "fast" is not part of Yom Kippur; rather, all it calls for is "rest" - no work for you and you should not have anyone working for you that day.  Somehow they see that interpretation in full compliance with scripture.  But is it in compliance with scripture?

Here are the verses most often referenced to make the case:

"And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you.   For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.   It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever."  (Leviticus 16:29-31, ESV).

Most then go into a long explanation that the Hebrew word, תענו, ("tayanu") translated here as "afflict" in English, in no way carries the meaning or requirement to "fast" because the Hebrew word for "fast" is   וצומו, (ve'tzumu).  Thus they conclude that the scripture says that "afflict yourself" means to not work that day.  Therefore, by their deep, scriptural analysis, they have found a way to eliminate the requirement for fasting on Yom Kippur.

But somehow they miss that the phrase says "afflict yourself".  Well, actually it says
תענו את־נפשׁתיכם,  "te'anuh et-nafsh'tim", roughly "afflict your souls".  The Hebrew word for "nephesh", translated into English, actually means much more than "souls", and the phrase truly reads that each person is doing something special and not simply "taking the day off."

The days of no work

All of God's Holy Days are Shabbats!  For each one we are commanded to do no work.  The weekly Sabbath is commanded for no work:

"Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places."
(Leviticus 23:3, ESV).

No, "afflict your soul" associated with the weekly Sabbath!

Then in Leviticus 23:6-8 we learn that the first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are Sabbaths on which there is to be no work.  No, "afflict your soul" associated with the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Then we learn in Leviticus 23:21 that Shavuot is a Holy Day with no work, and the 1st of Tishri in Leviticus 23:24-25 is a Holy Day with no work,  as are the 1st and eighth days of Sukkot (Leviticus 23:34-36) ... and on all these Holy Days of no work we do not find "afflict your soul" associated with these Holy Days.

But there in Leviticus 23:27, there it is again: "Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD." (ESV).  So clearly, since Yom Kippur is a day of no work, it is also a day to "afflict your soul."

So can we find out what this means?  

Yes we can!  All arguments aside, as to the meaning of "afflict" and whether or not "fasting is implied or required", simply turn to scripture:

"And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Here we find God "humbled" His people by making them hungry!  The English word "humbled" here is from ויענך,  ("vey'ane'cha"), the same word as "afflict" in Leviticus 16 and 23!

So there you have it.  To "afflict your soul" truly does mean "become hungry"; that is, to "fast".  And we are even told why:  "...that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD "!

And if Deuteronomy 8:3 does not "cement" this for you, then read verse 2:

"And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not." (ESV)

So next Yom Kippur, when you try to find some reason not to fast, is that not actually testing your heart?  How about fasting that day so you can dwell on not living by food alone!


  1. Thanks for this explanation! It is well received and has been a part of my Yom Kippur for many years! Shalom!


  2. Shalom Shali-

    I have to confess this Yom Kippur has really hit me with great weight. I realized that in years prior, I had only reflected and not "afflicted" your soul" truly does mean "become hungry". When I saw your preemptive nudge of the Fall feast approaching, Yom Kippur weighed on me. I thought I knew what it meant; but when that still small voice of Ruach says give up, surrender all resentment known and unknown, I was floored. Seeing your transparency of some of your posts, motivated me to go a little further with conscience and repenting of that I've compartmentalized for so long. I had no problem with F.A.S.Ting (Focusing, Abstaining and Trusting) because it has been a model to us outlined in Torah/ Brithadassah; I want to see the bonds of wickedness broken, generational curse removed and the Milk and the honey flowing in our generation. I learned long ago, a faith not tested cannot be trusted and this faith in YHWH is not a "by works" rather it's a spirit and truth yearning of the nefesh.
    Blessed are the pure in heart for they SHALL see YHWH' C'mon... don't you wanna' SEE YHWH move? I mean really move; removing those false prophets of ba'al who prophesy lies, agendas and theories;
    beloved you are a SetApart generation with royal DNA, called to be kadoshim unto Master YHWH.

    Thank you Shali? Liam for pointing us to the ancient pathway, where the Ancient of Days can be found. (so excited for these Fall Feasts; excited for this cyber network remnant and waiting to hear reports of the signs and wonders YHWH is and will do this season)

  3. ooops the FASTing acronym is missing the (S)eeking; sorry.

  4. Thank you Kof! Such a joy to read your comments which reveal you are so "on fire' for YHWH and His Word! So many spend so much time finding ways to deny Torah and concluding that "grace" somehow negates the simple need for obedience. I was floored this year to find out how rampant the (false) teaching is that no fasting is required on Yom Kippur! Someone even said (in an email) they thought had a "a strong measure of envy" in my article. Envy? A desire to actually obey and do as YHWH asked ALL who have Him as their God makes me "envious" of someone who thinks the Messiah covered ALL their sins - even those AFTER they accepted His blood atonement for their PAST sins? No. Your acronym for "FAST": Focusing, Abstaining, Seeking and Trusting is what Yom Kippur is all about. Yet many are out there teaching it means nothing today. I'm speechless!

    1. Bless you Liam! As we contended, may YHWH bend the itchy ears to hear the ruach; if they are willing?

  5. I'm sad to confess that I was deceived regarding the necessity of fasting on Yom Kippur. Just as it was approaching, I was researching it online and listened to a certain teaching where they convincingly claimed that fasting on Yom Kippur is not necessary. After thinking about it, and having no knowledge of the original language and meaning of the words used and the connections to different parts of scripture, I believed that I didn't HAVE TO (yes I know, can you hear how I just wanted to run away from responsibility and obedience. I confess with such grief..) fast on Yom Kippur. So I didn't. I also explained it to myself very convincingly that as I have a history of an eating disorder and I still struggle with it quite a lot, fasting would probably aggravate it. How very "wise" I thought I was..

    The whole day I was trying to find ways to "afflict" my soul. I spent time in prayer and repentance, but somehow it just didn't feel right. I felt guilty about not fasting. Not giving my all, my best to YHWH. Is this really all I can give to Him on a High Day like this? Enjoying my meals, going about my life almost as if it was an ordinary day, or like an ordinary Shabbat since no work was permitted. And I hated myself for that, I hated myself for being such a lazy, half-hearted, carnal, caring for myself more than YHWH... Unable to give my EVERYTHING to Him, although deep down I do want it so bad, but my flesh still being so strong that I just couldn't put it aside since it got the opportunity from the erroneous teaching.

    But I see something positive in this too, an opportunity to learn from my mistakes. I can see how carnal I still am, I can see how difficult it is to take my cross, crucify my flesh, follow YHWH no matter what. How much I still need to change, how much I still need to read and learn the Torah, how much I still have to discover about myself; to bring all the sin and filth within my soul to the surface, for the light of Mashiyach to expose it and burn it off. How badly I need to learn the Bible for myself, and not to rely on someone else's opinion on it.

    Now I will reflect on this experience and make sure that next year I will not repeat this mistake. May YHWH have mercy on me and everyone who stumbles in the same way.

  6. Blessings to you, and take heart to know that that "check in your spirit" was a good thing. And also know that, when someone has a medical issue where fasting would be bad for them, then they are permitted to eat that necessary to prevent medical problems. Thank you for your wonderful testimony, and may you have a "good year" learning more of how you can please YHWH by your simple obedience.

    1. Dearest Kofi and Anonymous - you are true blessings because you both obviously seek YHWH with all your heart. That's all He asks. He doesn't expect us to be perfect! He just expects us to be His and to constantly continue learning and growing and DOING His will to the best of our ability. Rest assured, you two are wonderful servants, and we here at The Refiner's Fire are very proud of you!

    2. Oh Momma Shali- it is my joy being connected to this cyber remnant, who thirst for righteousness.

  7. I have a bit of confusion by what is written regarding "words". I have no confusion or argument with the fact that we do need to fast. I would like to know where we are getting or how we're getting "tayanu" in the said verse of Lev 16:29? What I find for "ye shall afflict" is ‛ânâh/ענה.

    What and how are you seeing?

    Shalom and may your affliction be blessed and edifying.

  8. The root word *is* ‛ânâh/ענה in both Leviticus 23:27 and Leviticus 16:29. In 23:27 it is in this form: ועניתם את־נפשׁתיכם (ve'ani'tem et-neph'shotei'chem) containing the root words 'anah and nephesh and in 16:29 it is ענו את־נפשׁתיכם (te'anu et-neph'shotei'chem), again the same root words 'anah and nephesh, hence "afflict the soul".


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