New American Reform Responsa
67. Yom Kippur “Break-the-Fast”
QUESTION: It has been the custom of my congregation to conclude the Yom Kippur at 6:00 p.m., actually it is not completely dark with three stars until about 7:30 p.m. I wait until the traditional conclusion of the day to break my fast, however, now some of my congregants would like to hold a break-the-fast reception immediately after the neilah service at 6:00 p.m. How seriously does Reform Judaism take the fasting period “from eventide to eventide”? (Rabbi Gerald Raiskin, Burlingame CA)ANSWER: Yom Kippur, like all festivals and the shabbat, extends from evening to evening and all Jews have always tried to honor this tradition and to fast on this day (Lev 16:27; 23.27; M Yoma 8.1 81 b, R H 9a, Shab 35b; Shulhan Arukh Orah Hayim 261.2, 293.2;610). We have not been particularly strict in some matters, for example in kindling the shabbat lights or making qiddush on Friday evening. We do not insist that this be done at sunset but rather that it occur at the time of the family meal which actually begins shabbat for the family. As there is no prohibition against kindling lights on shabbat for us, the symbolism of the candles is better served when the candles are lit at the dinner table and then later at a public service. Yom Kippur is observed by all our congregants and an effort is made to observe it from “eventide to eventide”. Most of our people fast and take both the outward observance and the inner meaning of this holiday very seriously. Although individual families may not be fully observant, certainly congregations should not set that kind of an example. A congregational reception or dinner it should occur after the day is actually over. There is, of course, some conflict between this kind of a reception and the general serious mood of the day and for that reason as well, it should not intrude into the day. The light mood of an evening reception may clash with the general tenor of the day. Some congregations, like my own, have satisfied the congregational desire for sociability at this time when almost all members are present by having a reception after the Rosh Hashanah morning services; others have chosen Sukkot as the appropriate time during this season for sociability. As the mood of that day is slightly different from Yom Kippur and as there are no questions of propriety, this has worked out very well for us. Yom Kippur is concluded when three stars are visible, whether this be early or late; many of us are not absolutely strict about this, but there is no reason for breaking the fast before sunset and it is dark merely because the services have ended.December 1988
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