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What To Do When Yom Kippur Meets the Shabbat

This year, Yom Kippur falls on Friday, October 3, 2014 which is also the Shabbath. When two of the holiest days in Judaism converge, what is a Torah observant Jew to do? Logically, the question follows:


So, what do you do when Yom Kippur meets the Shabbath?

What do you do when the date of Yom Kippur is the same day as the Shabbat? Rules and customs on westafricanjews.com

WaYiqra/Leviticus 23,2 says:

Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.

This passage teaches that all of the holy days (festival days) must be declared by Moshe and the seventy (70) elders of Israel, which established that the Sanhedrin, declared the new months and seasons. This declaration is termed miqra qodesh (declaration of the Holy Day).

One of the most important facts of the Torah is, that the Shabbath Day is the only day, which cannot be called a “miqra qodesh” (declared as sacred or holy), for that day was already declared and sanctified by YHWH from Bereshith/Genesis. As opposed to the Yom Tov (festival days), the sanctity of Shabbath does not rely upon the Sanhedrin (the Shoftim/judges).

This is why the Shabbath melakhoth can not be circumvented by anything other than a direct commandment from HaShem, such as perfoming a brith milah, and saving a life.

Often the confusion for most people begins when the Torah mentions Yom Kippur as the Shabbath shabbaton (the Day of Rest of days of rest). In context, Yom Kippur, is called Shabbath shabbaton, because out of all of the Yom Tov (proclaimed holy days) it is the Shabbath Shabbaton, meaning that Yom kippur is holier than Pesah, Shauvoth and Sukkoth. These are the miqra qodesh.

However, Yom Kippur is not holier than the Shabbath, but in may ways equal to it. When Yom Kippur falls on the Shabbath, figuratively, there is an eclipse – an influence of both days upon each other.  When Yom Kippur falls on the Shabbath, as opposed to feasting, we afflict ourselves, just as we did, when we had to prepare to appear before G-d at Mt. Sinai.

What rules apply when Yom Kippur falls on the Shabbat? Do we feast and eat or fast?

Like the shelosh rejalim (three major festival days), Yom Kippur is a day of rest, except that it includes resting from our desires (feasting, joy and physical intimacy). It is taught that HaShem is closer to Creation on Yom Kippur than any other holy day.  Yet on the other hand, the Torah tells us the G-d also gives the Shabbath a special additional soul. 

The children of Israel are to keep the Shabbath, observing the Shabbath throughout their generations as a covenant forever.  Between Me and the children of Israel, it will be a sign forever, for in six days YHWH (Adonai) made the heavens and the earth, and in the seventh day He ceased [from creation] and infused it with a soul.   – Shemoth/Exodus 31, 17.

We must remember that these days have special significance to our  spiritual experience with YHWH… The Shabbath is about creation and  our part in it, but Yom Kippur is about taking an account of ourselves and self inflection… giving an account of ourselves regarding our purpose in creation (refinement or digression)… Forgiveness and redemption.

However, to be reminded of the sanctity of the Shabbath, it is on havdala (a ceremony that bids the Shabbath day an acknowledgement of ending) on Mose Shabbath that is followed by a festival day, we say, ‘You separated between the sanctity of Shabbath and the sanctity of
Yom Tov.’

This would suggest that the qedusha (sanctity) of Shabbath day is higher, since the Almighty sanctified it Himself, as opposed to Yom Tov, which Yisrael themselves sanctify, as it is written, ‘…which YOU shall proclaim as sacred occasions.’ The festivals of G-d require the sanctification of the Sanhedrin.

This is another factor to consider when Yom Kippur falls on the Shabbath day. For on the Shabbath we are forbidden from saying avinu Malkenu (words of supplication) blowing the shofar until the end of the Shabbath.

While on Yom Kippur, anyone found guilty of eating or doing Melacha (forbidden activity) is ONLY punishable by Kareth (‘cutting off’ a punishment only executed by heaven), if one violated the Shabbath by engaging in melakha, the guilty is liable, tantamount to a death penalty by the Sanhedrin, which is considered a more severe punishment and also an indicator that the Shabbath day has a higher qedusha (level of sanctification).

Nonetheless, the essential elements of both the Shabbath and Yom Kippur are in effect. Like Yom Kippur we fast and confess our sins, and like the Shabbath, we don’t make supplications, but acknowledge the Shabbath day through the maintaining the essential Shabbath prayers as well.

In reality, we are experiencing a double dose of qedusha when these days meet, with the hopes of receiving a multitude blessing from YHWH.

Let your Yom Kippur be filled with repentance, forgiveness, and mercy form Heaven. May your fast be safe and your Shabbath be honored. May YHWH write us in His book of life, prosperity, sustenance, success, love, happiness and peace. May this be His will.

Rabbi Yehudah BenLewi,

West African Jews of the Diaspora.

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