What can you not eat on Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. It is a 25-hour fast day that falls on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei. On Yom Kippur, Jewish people around the world refrain from eating and drinking, bathing, using cosmetics, marital relations, and wearing leather shoes as a means of spiritual purification.

Why do you fast on Yom Kippur?

The central observance of Yom Kippur is an approximate 25-hour fast from a few minutes before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur until nightfall the next day. This is the most widespread observance of the Jewish holy day. By abstaining from food and drink, one elevates the spiritual over the physical. The fasting is seen as a way to gain atonement for sins between the person and God.

What do you not eat or drink during Yom Kippur?

On Yom Kippur, it is forbidden to consume any food or beverages. This includes:

  • All solid foods like bread, rice, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, etc.
  • All liquids like water, juice, milk, coffee, tea, etc.

Even though water is necessary for survival, drinking water is still prohibited during the fast. The only exception is if a person’s health is at risk.

Why can’t you drink water?

Drinking water is prohibited on Yom Kippur because the fast is meant to be an absolute, complete abstention from physical pleasures and nourishment. Water is essential for survival, so abstaining from it makes the fast more meaningful and shows the importance of spiritual nourishment over physical sustenance.

By denying oneself even basic necessities like water, one can focus purely on repentance, prayer and spiritual growth. Drinking water would provide some bodily comfort and relief, so it is avoided to maintain an austerity appropriate for the solemnity of Yom Kippur.

Are there any exceptions to fasting on Yom Kippur?

There are some exceptions to fasting on Yom Kippur:

  • Children under the age of 13 are not required to fast, although many attempt a partial fast.
  • Women who are pregnant or nursing are not only permitted but required to eat and drink for their health and the baby’s health.
  • People with medical conditions for whom fasting would cause undue hardship or pose a serious health risk.
  • Elderly or frail people who need nourishment for their health and well-being.

In life-threatening emergencies where one’s health is in serious danger, it is not only permitted but obligatory to break the fast immediately.

What other restrictions are there on Yom Kippur?

In addition to abstaining from all food and drink, there are several other restrictions on Yom Kippur:

  • Bathing and washing the body are prohibited since they involve physical comfort and pleasure.
  • Using creams, cosmetics, perfumes, deodorants and ointments is prohibited for the same reason.
  • Marital relations between spouses are forbidden.
  • Wearing leather shoes is prohibited since leather was a luxury item in ancient times.
  • Torah study is restricted to topics relating to repentance, fasting, and Yom Kippur.

The additional prohibitions are meant to help one focus completely on prayer, repentance and introspection without any distractions or physical comforts.

What are the customs and rituals of Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is marked by several important rituals and customs:

  • Kol Nidre – This prayer annuls all personal vows one may have made to God in the past year. It is recited before nightfall at the start of Yom Kippur.
  • Evening prayers – Extended worship services are held in synagogues as Yom Kippur begins.
  • Morning prayers – Long services take place the next morning which include Vidui (confessions of sins).
  • Yizkor – This memorial service honors deceased relatives and is recited in the afternoon.
  • Mincha – The closing afternoon service includes the Book of Jonah which emphasizes repentance.
  • Ne’ila – The final prayer service of Yom Kippur when the gates of heaven close.
  • Havdalah – A ceremony marking the end of Yom Kippur and separating it from the rest of the days.

Throughout the day, five prayer services are recited. The Ne’ila service is recited at the very end as the fast concludes and is highly emotional. After nightfall when Yom Kippur is over, the fast is traditionally broken by first drinking water and eating a piece of bread before having a full meal.

What are appropriate greetings for Yom Kippur?

Here are some appropriate greetings to wish someone well on the occasion of Yom Kippur:

  • “G’mar chatima tova” – May you be sealed in the Book of Life
  • “Tzom kal” – Have an easy fast
  • “Moadim l’simcha” – Happy holiday season
  • “Tichleh shanah u’birchateha” – May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year
  • “Have an easy and meaningful fast”

It is also appropriate to simply wish someone “Good Yuntif” or “Shabbat Shalom” on the occasion of Yom Kippur.

What do you say to greet someone after Yom Kippur?

After Yom Kippur is over, it is appropriate to wish someone:

  • “Moadim l’simcha” – Happy holiday season
  • “Hag sameach” – Happy holidays
  • “Chag sameach” – Happy festival
  • “G’mar chatimah tovah” – May you be sealed for a good year
  • “I hope you had an easy and meaningful fast”

One can also simply say “Good Yuntif” or inquire how their fast went. Wishing someone “Shabbat Shalom” is also fine after Yom Kippur concludes if it coincides with Shabbat.

What do people greet each other with on Yom Kippur?

On Yom Kippur itself, common greetings include:

  • “G’mar chatima tova” – May you be inscribed for a good year
  • “Tzom kal” – Have an easy fast
  • “Moadim l’simcha” – Happy holiday season
  • “Tichleh shanah u’birchateha” – May you end this year with its blessings
  • “Have an easy and meaningful fast”

Many people simply say “Good Yuntif” which means have a good holy day. The most popular greeting is “G’mar chatima tova” which expresses the hope that person will be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year ahead.

What do you wish someone on Yom Kippur?

It is traditional to wish someone the following on Yom Kippur:

  • “G’mar chatima tova” – May you be inscribed for a good year
  • “Tzom kal” – Have an easy fast
  • “Moadim l’simcha” – Happy holiday season
  • “Tichleh shanah u’birchateha” – May you end this year with its blessings
  • “Have a meaningful Yom Kippur”

Additional wishes include:

  • “Wishing you peace, health and happiness in the year ahead”
  • “May you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good new year”
  • “Hope you have an uplifting and soulful fast”
  • “Reflect deeply and be inscribed for a sweet new year”

The most important thing is to sincerely wish them an easy fast, soul-searching, forgiveness, and blessings in the coming year.

What are some Yom Kippur blessings and their meanings?

Here are some common Yom Kippur blessings and their meanings:

Blessing Meaning
G’mar chatima tova May you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year
Tzom kal Have an easy fast
Tichleh shanah u’birchateha May you end this year along with its blessings
Tizku leshanim rabot May you merit many more years
Moadim l’simcha Happy holiday season

These blessings wish for atonement, a good new year, an easy fast, and a sweet new start in the year ahead.

What do you say when someone wishes you an easy fast?

When someone wishes you an “easy fast” or “tzom kal” on Yom Kippur, appropriate responses include:

  • “Thank you, same to you”
  • “Appreciate it, you as well”
  • “Thanks, hope you have an meaningful fast too”
  • “That’s kind of you to say, wishing you an easy fast too”
  • “Have an easy fast as well”

You can also simply respond by wishing them the same in return:

  • “Tzom kal”
  • “You too, tzom kal”
  • “Same to you, tzom kal”

The important thing is to thank them and reciprocate the good wishes before or during the fast. It demonstrates your appreciation for their kindness and thoughtfulness.


Yom Kippur is marked by a 25-hour abstention from any food or drink as well as other physical pleasures. Even basic necessities like water are forbidden on the solemn holiday in order to focus completely on repentance and spiritual growth. While children, the elderly, pregnant women and the ill are excused from fasting, observing the restrictions poses a meaningful challenge for healthy adults. As the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur is a time to reflect sincerely, pray for forgiveness, and resolve to improve oneself in the year ahead.

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