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Prayers, Yom Kippur, etc.

Rabbi Elchanan Lewis13 Tammuz 5764
3401
Question
I recently moved out of L.A., and to a small town up North. There are shuls to attend, yet I am finding it difficult to attend on Friday evenings after a hard week at work and school. I REALLY want to go and do the prayers of Shabbat, but I practically have to drag myself. Since I am not well-versed with the prayers, as what should be read on a Friday evening, I feel that I must be with others to do this. Does G-d look down on me for not going to shul every Friday evening? I hope not. What is your opinion, please? Also, I recently lost my stepfather, where he passed away almost 4 months ago. Is it acceptable to talk to him occasionally? Or, is it more acceptable to speak with G-d in my prayers, and ask G-d to relay the message to my stepfather? I once read that talking to those who have passed away is considered to be a form of sorcery, thus forbidden in Judaism. Finally, this year, for the first time in more than 20 years, I will surely fast on Yom Kippur, and also go to pray at one of the shuls. As I recall, one cannot eat or drink all day from sundown of the evening before until the next day at sunset. Can I at least brush my teeth on the morning of Yom Kippur, or is this already too much, thus sinning on such a holy day?
Answer
Shalom We don’t know what G-d thinks of us and how he looks down on us, we do know that he loves all people, especially his "firstborn" child – we Jews, similarly we know what G-d wants from us – to be good people. Furthermore, we also know that what he meant in that is to follow his commandment in the Torah as explained by the rabbis of all generations. If you can fulfill a Mitzvah you should. If you can't – you can't. But only you and G-d know whether you put all efforts into it or not. Going to shul on Friday night is an important practice, it's worth while to put maximum effort into it and I'm sure you will feel the satisfaction in a short time. For your stepfather - if it makes you feel better you can talk to him at home or even better at the grave. We don't know if he can hear but we don't know he can't, in any case that is not the Torah prohibition you mentioned. G-d on the other hand always listens to us. Talking to him is one of the best ways of establishing a relationship with him. I commend you for undertaking the commitment to fast on Yom Kippur. As you mentioned it begins before sunset but ends after nightfall – as three little stars appear in the sky – easiest just get hold of a Jewish calendar or consult your local rabbi. Likewise - no teeth brushing for these 26 or so hours. All the best
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