2013-09-13 / Front Page

Breaking the Fast — Yom Kippur

By Mark Beitman
For the Jewish Times


"Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur" by Maurycy Gottlieb – 1878. "Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur" by Maurycy Gottlieb – 1878. Yom Kippur is upon us, a day of spiritual reflection where we traditionally abstain from eating, drinking and other activities such as bathing, using creams and oils, and wearing leather shoes.

Many Jews also wear white, symbolically representing purity. With our minds focused on prayer and teshuva, we strive to come to peace with ourselves, with others, Hashem and the Universe.

But not so fast! To truly benefit from this day of introspection and community, it helps to put yourself in the best physical state to endure the 25-hour long abstinence from liquids and solid-food nourishment.

With the holiday upon us, the best thing one can do is make sure to drink plenty of water so as to stay hydrated throughout the ceremonies. Likewise, avoid excessive salt, caffeine, alcohol, sugary and fatty foods, as well as heavy meals, which will tax your body in the coming day.

Also, avoid the desire to over-eat before the fast begins, as this will not prevent you from feeling hungry during Yom Kippur, but rather will require your body to use more energy and liquids to break down the extra food.

Instead, try to focus on eating complex carbohydrates, which help your body maintain energy as well as hydration, such as: pasta, bread, fruit, rice, vegetables and legumes. The extra fiber will also make you feel fuller longer.

Finally, relax and conserve your energy, brush your teeth, and prepare to enter the traditions of this most holy of days.

Of course, the other side of the coin is the breaking of the fast – which happens after the 25-hour cycle has been completed. Again, avoid the temptation to eat too much right away, as your body is not used to digesting food, and therefore needs time to re-adjust.

Start with something small: tea or coffee and cake. Focus on foods that are easy-to-digest and comforting, such as bagels and cream cheese. A good idea is to prepare foods that can be eaten at room temperature or easily re-heated, that way during the holiday you can focus on the services and rituals, rather than being concerned with excessive food preparation for breaking the fast.

Traditionally, meat, poultry and fish are avoided, as they are heavy on the stomach. It is preferred, therefore, to consume dairy products and eggs. Enjoy a nice omelet, a slice of kugel, or perhaps some biscotti or cinnamon sponge cake. Fresh fruit is another good item.

Other possibilities include fresh salad, cheese, and smoked fish. Challah can be served with orange juice or wine. Herring, rice, soup, or cookies are all fine options to include in your break-fast meal.

Over time each community has developed its own particular “breakfast” dishes. Iranian Jews are known to eat a dish composed of shredded apples and rose water known as “fallodeh seeb.” Turkish and Greek Jews often consume a drink made from melon seeds. In Poland and Russia, a slice of babka can be found accompanied with a nice cup of lemon tea.

Meanwhile, in Syria and Iraq, Jews eat traditional sesame crackers shaped like miniature bagels. In North Africa, Jews eat traditional buttered cookies called “rhuraieba,” also known as “ribo” by Moroccan Jews.

American Jews, especially those of Ashkenazi descent, can commonly be found nourishing themselves on bagels, cream cheese, and slices of kugel. In Israel, it is common to find salad, yogurt, cheese, figs, dates, and grapes as a part of the typical nosh.

However you may choose, from blueberry blintzes to smoked salmon quiche, an old favorite or something quick and easy, it is important to remember to start the process of replenishing your body of lost nutrients and liquids slowly, as you settle back into the normal flow of life.

May your Yom Kippur be a rewarding and memorable experience, and may you have an “Easy Fast” - or as we say in Hebrew: "Tzom Kal."

You can listen to the beautiful singing of "Lekhah Dodi" by Shlomo Carlebach by going to the Jewish Times of South Jersey's Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/JewishTimesSJ.

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