Torah Fax
Friday, September 29, 2006 - 7 Tishrei, 5767

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Eat, Drink, Be Merry and Fast
Yom Kippur as the Day of Atonement is characterized by the obligation to fast from sundown of the eve of Yom Kippur until after dark of the next day. It is obvious that fasting is considered to be a powerful medium for repentance and change.  Ironically, there is also an obligation to feast the day before Yom Kippur. As our Talmudic sages comment: "One who eats and drinks the day before Yom Kippur is regarded as if he had fasted the two days of Yom Kippur Eve and Yom Kippur."
How do we explain this dichotomous approach to fasting and feasting? Which one is the desirable approach to returning to G‑d? Granted, there is a need to eat before the fast to enable us to fast, but if fasting is such an ideal, why does the Talmud make such a fuss about feasting before the fast?
In truth, from a spiritual perspective, fasting and feasting are two sides of the same coin. And since the feasting precedes the fasting, let us try to understand first the dynamics of feasting, from a spiritual vantage point, and then the dynamics of fasting.
On the surface, it would seem that feasting is the more "normal" state of existence. After all, a human being cannot survive without eating. Upon deeper reflection, however, the entire process of eating flies in the face of plain logic. How is it that a human being, the highest form of creation, needs to be receive his nourishment from lower forms of life, such as animals, plants and minerals?
To answer this question we need to better understand the fundamental concept of the purpose of our creation. What, indeed was G‑d's purpose in creating us?
The world by definition is an imperfect and unbalanced place. G‑d has given us the duty to improve and even perfect this world. For example: While G‑d provides much of the raw material we use for existence, it is humans that can transform these materials into things which are useful for our day-to-day living. Another example: Everything possesses spiritual energy. But, G‑d deliberately hid this energy so that we, the human being, utilizing our intelligence and choice to do good, can discover that energy and unleash it.
Where does G‑d hide this spiritual energy? Kaballah teaches that this energy is throughout creation.  Indeed, the more potent the spiritual force, the more concealed does that power become. Thus, there can be more spirituality hidden in lower forms of life than in higher forms. A plant may have more spiritual power than an animal, and similarly a mineral may have more than a plant.
By making humans depend on food for existence, we have the ability to "find" the hidden "sparks of holiness" that are contained in the food. By following G‑d's rules about the manner in which we eat (following the kosher laws, reciting a blessing before eating, utilizing the energy that we derive from the food for good purposes etc.) we restore the hidden G‑dly energy to its original source.
Eating is thus a process of reversing the imbalance G‑d created in this world.
Seen in this light, we can now understand why there is Mitzvah to feast on the day before Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is all about restoring the imbalance in our own lives. G‑d has given us so much talent, energy and ability. Yet, so often we misuse our resources, by utilizing them for the wrong goals. On the day before Yom Kippur we rectify the imbalances in our lives by eating a meal, meaning: we do an exercise that unleashes the G‑dly energy that has been misplaced.
But, Yom Kippur takes us to an even higher plane. After having restored balance to our world, we must strive to reach even higher levels of holiness. Fasting is the process wherein we live off the energy that is inherent in our own bodies, without the need to look for spiritual nourishment elsewhere.  
Yom Kippur is thus the time when we are capable of living in an ideal world where there is no need to forage for our spiritual nourishment outside of ourselves; we get all the nourishment we need from our own existence.
Yom Kippur is reminiscent of the description our Sages give us concerning the ultimate World-to-Come, "Where there is no eating and drinking."  At that advanced spiritual time, there will be no need to eat and drink, because we will no longer have to rectify and reverse imbalances in nature. Our entire focus will be thriving on the Divinity that is contained within ourselves for our sustenance. While we cannot do that presently, Yom Kippur gives us one day in which we get a "taste" of the future.
Moshiach Matters
The best way to hasten the coming of Moshiach and the true and complete redemption is to to live on a day-to-day basis in the manner we will live when Moshiach comes. In this spirit, we have to fulfill Mitzvot in an ever increasing manner, adding more each day. And, just as Moshiach will teach the world Torah, so too must we share the spirit of Judaism to as many people as possible, with love and an upbeat spirit. (The Rebbe, Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 23, P. 487)

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