Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Yom Kipur Laws
To dedicate this lesson
At the Shabbat Table

Fast Food

Who gets the food on erev yom kipur the religious jew or the secular jew?


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Tishrei 10 5781
It had been a busy day, but that was no surprise to Shneur. As the rabbi of a Chabad house in India, he had known that Erev Yom Kippur would be punctuated with conversations with seeking souls, urgent halachic questions, and a need for last minute changes in the seating arrangements. The call he got shortly after Mincha, however, was a little different than the usual.
"Is this the Rabbi?" a young man inquired urgently. "My name is Matanya. I’m on a trail in Kerala, and I ran out of food. Someone told me he can help me out, but the earliest he’ll get to me is tomorrow morning. That means I won’t have anything to eat before Yom Kippur! There’s no way I can go into the fast this way. I’m going to have to break my fast, when I get the food tomorrow, if I don’t get help now! I really don’t want to have to break my fast. I’m religious - I keep Shabbat and put tefillin on every day, and I want to be able to fast tomorrow, but if I don’t get food soon, I don’t know if I’ll have a choice!"
Shneur took down Matanya’s information, and contemplated his options. Kerala wasn’t nearby. If he wanted to get there in time, either to bring food to Matanya, or to bring Matanya back to the Chabad house, it seemed that air travel was his only option. Shneur thumbed through the contacts in his phone, and found the number of an acquaintance who might be able to help. "Yes, this is Shneur from the Chabad house. I’m sorry to bother you so close to Yom Kippur, but I was wondering if I could use your helicopter to help someone who’s stranded without food…"
After the helicopter owner gave his generous acquiescence, Shneur hung up the phone with a sigh of relief. The next phone call he received, however, proved that Shneur’s relief had been premature.
"Rabbi!" The urgency in the man’s voice was evident. "My name is Golan. I ran out of food. Someone told me that he’ll be able to get food to me tomorrow, but tomorrow is Yom Kippur! I don’t do much religiously, but I always fast on Yom Kippur. If I don’t eat today, there’s no way I’ll be able to fast tomorrow, though!"
As Shneur hung up with Golan, he felt torn. He would have loved to be able to help both Matanya and Golan, but there was no way he could get a helicopter to both of them before Yom Kippur. The two hikers weren’t anywhere near each other. Shneur would only be able to get food to one of them.
If it were a matter of life and death, Shneur would have helped both men. However, neither of them were in danger of starvation. Both of them were scheduled to receive food the following day. It was just a matter of enabling them to fast on Yom Kippur.
Should Shneur get food to Matanya, who was already religious or Golan, who kept very little of the Torah?
Answer of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt"l:
The mitzva of v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha (love one’s friend as oneself) gives priority to a Torah observant Jew. Therefore, Shneur should give the assistance to Matanya.
About two hundred years ago, a similar question was asked of Rabbi Shlomo Kluger. In one town, there were two Jews, one righteous and one wicked, who were both deathly ill, and had very little time left. Both men requested that the town rabbi be present with them, in order to recite the vidui (confession) prayer before their deaths. The rabbi didn’t know which man to assist first. Rabbi Kluger ruled that it was better for the rabbi to go to the house of the wicked man. This is because there is a greater obligation to bring close those who are distant, as the pasuk says "peace, peace to the distant and the close" (Yeshaya 57:19). The order of words in this verse indicates that those who are distant take priority. Another reason to go to the wicked man was that he had more sins about which to confess. (See Chachmat Shlomo, siman 338)
According to this ruling of Rabbi Kluger, it would seem that priority should be given to Golan, the non-observant Jew. However, it is reasonable to assume that an element of Rabbi Kluger’s ruling was based on the fact that the town rabbi would assist the wicked man in accomplishing man more mitzvot, because he had many more sins upon which to confess. In our situation, both Matanya and Golan would be assisted in keeping only one mitzva – that of fasting on Yom Kippur. Therefore, in that respect they are equal, and priority should be given to Matanya, due to the mitzva of v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha, as we stated above.
In summary:
Shneur should bring food to Matanya
(from Kav V’naki, siman 178)

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