Yom Kippur Study Session 

Workers' Rights in the Jewish Tradition


Isaiah's Vision

Probably the best known practice associated with the observance of Yom Kippur is the day-long fast.  It is often taught that Jews refrain from eating and drinking on Yom Kippur so they can devote themselves wholeheartedly to prayer and the process of teshuvah, or repentance.  By not expending energy to meet our physical needs on the Day of Atonement, traditional sources state, we are free to concentrate on higher matters.  We are free to focus on our relationship to God, to our people, and to all humanity. 

The act of abstaining from food and drink, then, is more than merely a physical process.   It is also an attempt to create a more moral life for ourselves and for those around us, and to examine those impediments, whether they be personal or societal, that stand in the way of this vision.  Indeed, as the Yom Kippur morning Haftorah reading from the Book of Isaiah makes clear,
if we fast without pledging to change ourselves and our community, we have missed the main purpose of the day.