Yom Kippur

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Jewish (177)Are children supposed to fast on Yom Kippur? ¬†Are they exempt from the solemn activities of the day? Let’s find out as we learn/review the Halachos of Chinuch pertaining to Yom Kippur.

A. EREV YOM KIPPUR

1. Chazal teach that one who eats festively on erev Yom Kippur andfasts on Yom Kippur is rewarded as if he has fasted both days. It is amitzvah for a Jewish adult to eat a festive meal on the day before Yom

Kippur. Chinuch for this mitzvah begins at approximately the age of 5 or 6 years. [2]

2. It is customary for parents to bless their children before going toshul on erev Yom Kippur. This blessing can be found in the Yom Kippur machzor. [2]

B. EATING & DRINKING on YOM KIPPUR

1. All Jewish adults are obligated by Torah Law to refrain from eating and drinking during Yom Kippur.

Children Below 9 years old

1. Healthy children under 9 yo (weak children under 10 yo) should not fast on Yom Kippur, [1][2] even for a short amount of time, and even if the child begs to fast, parents must not allow them to do so.

2. Even then, some parents have a custom to train their children < 9 yo to fast part of the day. [2]

Children 9 years and older

1. Boys 9 years and older (girls >= 10 yo) should be trained to fast only a portion of Yom Kippur. [1][2] I.e. fast from the onset of YK through the night, and eat breakfast an hour later than usual. As the child grows older and one’s strength increases, the number of hours that one fasts should be increased. [1][2]

2. Unless a parent has been informed by a doctor that the child can fast the entire day w/o any ill effect, the child should not fast even if he/she requests this. [1]

3. Needless to say, if the child’s health is endangered by the fast, he/she must immediately eat/drink. [2]

Children 11 years and older

1. When children reach 11 yo, according to the Shulchan Aruch, they should be trained to fast the entire day of YK. Rema adds that this doesn’t apply to weak/sickly children, therefore, the children may only fast for a portion of the day. Many poskim disagree with this position, by stating that parents are not required under any

circumstances to have their children below Bar/Bas Mitzvah fast an entire day of Yom Kippur. [1] Mishna Berurah rules that since children generally are too weak to fast the entire day, we should rely on the lenient opinion for ALL children. [2] [Moderator’s note: The LENIENT opinion is to only permit a partial day fast!]

Feeding a Child Who is Fasting

1. Once a child is fasting (according to the requirements above), it is forbidden for anyone to give food to him/her during the hours that he/she is fasting. If the child takes food on his/her own, his parents are required to stop him from eating and drinking, unless his/her health is endangered by the fast. [2]

Kiddush and Birkas Hamazon

1. Children are not prohibited from eating delicacies (as in other fast days) on Yom Kippur, because Yom Kippur is a festival and not a day of mourning. [1]

2. When a child eats on Yom Kippur, kiddush is not recited prior to eating. If a meal with bread is eaten, the child should add “Ya’aleh Ve’yavo” during the recitation of Birkas Hamazon. If Yom Kippur falls on a Shabbos, then “Retzei” should also be added. However, if he forgot either addition, he does not need to repeat the Birkas Hamazon. [2]

D. BATHING on YOM KIPPUR

1. A Jewish adult may not wash any part of their bodies on Yom Kippur except to wash away actual dirt with water. [1] Neither parents nor a gentile may bathe or partially wash a child (regardless of age) on Yom Kippur [1][2] but it is permissible to wash away only the dirt/soil on the child. If a child who has reached the age of chinuch (i.e. > 9 yo) attempts to wash oneself, the parents are obligated to restrain him. [2]

E. WEARING LEATHER SHOES on YOM KIPPUR

1. On Yom Kippur, a Jewish adult may not wear leather shoes. Hence, parents may not have their children wear leather shoes either. [1][2]

2. If a child of chinuch age puts on leather shoes, the parents are obligated to have the child remove them. A child below chinuch age who puts on leather shoes need not be stopped from wearing them. [2]

F. ANOINTING ONE’S SKIN on YOM KIPPUR

1. On Yom Kippur, a Jewish adult may not anoint one’s skin (with fragrance, cosmetics, etc), and parents are obligated to not have their children anoint themselves either. [1]

 

References

[1] A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children Mitzvot by Rabbi Shmuel Singer

[2] Children In Halachah by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen.

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