Yom Kippur And Food

Yom Kippur And Food
By: Boe Chmill

Yom Kippur, it is the holiest day in the Jewish Calendar. It is a holiday built around reflection and atonement. Many take extra time out of their day to do that, whether it is at work or in a synagogue. Jews attend services, partake in Tashlich, and fast for twenty five hours.
For those who do not know, fasting means abstaining from food. Jews do not eat during the holy day, because it is a divine commandment in Numbers 29:7: “On the tenth day of the same seventh month you shall observe a sacred occasion when you shall practice self-denial.”

Ironically, some people might be surprised to learn that Jews eat a variety of delicacies at Yom Kippur break fast–which is the first meal many Jews often have right after the high holiday ends.
“You can’t have breakfast without babka!” said Russ & Daughters owner Niki Russ Federman in an recent interview with NPR on food and Yom Kippur. She says traditional Yom Kippur feasts often consist of delicious smoked salmon, whitefish, herring, egg salad, pickles, cream cheese, and babka. Russ & Daughters sells around 2,000 house baked bagels and hand slices over 8,000 pounds of smoked fish every Yom Kippur. Federman says this kind of demand is why her family owned food company has been supplying these Yom Kippur food staples for over one hundred years.
University of Rochester Religious Studies Professor Nora Rubel said these break fast traditions are actually fairly new. Rubel discovered that Yom Kippur break fast menus were rarely mentioned in Jewish cookbooks until the 1980s. This is because Sukkot–a Jewish harvest festival that comes four days after Yom Kippur–played a much larger role in the diet of practicing Jews.

“Sukkot, which comes four days after, is all about feasting,” said Rubel. “You’re supposed to eat in the sukkah [ceremonial hut], and people are constantly inviting you over.” Even though Sukkot has these attributes the holiday has declined in popularity according to Nora Rubel and Yom Kippur break fast feasts have increased in popularity.
Rubel says there are a few reasons why Sukkot has declined–and Yom Kippur break fasts have become more important. She says one reason is that Jews traditionally have to purchase perishable goods for Sukkot. Another reason is that Jews traditionally construct Sukkahs–or homemade outdoor sheds. These tasks take time, money, and effort to accomplish. On the other hand, Yom Kippur break fast feasts are much easier to make, because you do not have to worry about these extra steps.

“Being with people, buying their fish, selecting their babka — for them, this is how they feel Jewish,” said Federman. Federman says that some patrons line up to the store as early as 5:30 in the morning the day before Yom Kippur. She says some are in line, because they forgot to order in. Others are there for the community. For more information about traditional foods served on the high holiday please visit this link to NPR.

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