Dear Rabbi: Fasting on Yom Kippur During Pregnancy

Ask the Rabbi: Fasting on Yom Kippur During Pregnancy
This was a question sent to Rabbi Da’vid Sperling by a pregnant JewishMOM before Yom Kippur…

Dear Rabbi, The famous question. What about fasting? By the time Yom Kippur rolls around, God Willing, I will be 10 weeks pregnant. I know about breaking the fast if it concerns endangering health of mother or unborn…however, As I have never been pregnant, have fasted all of my life for both major and most minor fasts, I would appreciate a little guidance.


From Rabbi David Sperling

A. Fasting for a pregnant woman on Yom Kippur (the other fasts have different laws, and are generally more lenient).

1.In a case of, G-d forbid, danger to the life of the mother, or the fetus, or even a possible danger, we break the fast (on how to eat see below).

2. Jewish law records the case of a women who, upon smelling some food for example, lusts to eat it. This is considered life threatening, and if after being reminded that it is Yom Kippur she still wants to eat, we give her a few drops to eat. We up the amount of food slowly until she no longer needs to eat. I have not heard of this happening in our day and age.

3. More common is a woman who feels nauseous, dizzy or faint. There is an argument amongst modern Rabbis how sick she must feel in order to eat. Rav Nebenzal (of the Old City of Jerusalem) is very lenient and rules that in any cases of dizziness (even mildly) or nausea, she should eat in “measures” (see below) and if that does not suffice, she should eat normally. She can even start eating before the nausea begins, if she is sure that the fast will cause the nausea to come.

There is an even more lenient opinion (of Rav Fischer zt”l of the Bedatz of the Adah Haradit) who tells all women from the seventh month on (until the ninth) that they must drink in “measures” as a preventive health measure. This opinion is not generally followed.

Rav Mordichai Eliyahu zt”l (previous Serphadi Chief Rabbi) ruled that one must be much stricter and cannot break the fast for dizziness or nausea.

I would suggest that if the mother feels well she should begin the fast, and if she then feels herself to be sick (especially vomiting or other signs of dehydration) she should break the fast by eating in measures.

However mild dizziness and nausea that can be coped with by lying down should be endured. But this depends very much on the general health of the mother and fetus.

4. There is an opinion that obligates women in the ninth month to at least drink in “measures” so as not arrive at labour without enough liquids. This is not generally followed, but someone who has fears about birth and wants to follow such an opinion has on whom to rely.

5. It should be stressed that the obligation to fast is much greater than the obligation to go to synagogue. A woman who knows that going to the synagogue will cause (or add to) the possibility of having to break the fast, should not go. It is better to spend the day in bed lying down if needs be, than to go out and have to eat.

A husband should also be reminded that he has an obligation to stay home and take care of his wife or children rather than go to pray with a minyan, in order that his wife be able to fast.

6. Medically needed tablets (for low iron etc) can be taken, when needed, on the fast, without water.

7. All the above is written for normal healthy pregnancies. If there are any complications, or a medical history of problem, one should consult

a Rabbi with the details. And in general it is better to talk to a rabbi who knows you personally and not rely on what I have written.

8. Eating in “measures”: one eats less than 30 cubic cm of food, no more than every nine minutes, and drinks less than a cheek-full of liquid (about 40 ml) every nine minutes. The food and drink do not join together and one can eat the amount above, as well as drink the amount above in the same nine minutes. But one must be careful that the food of one 9 mins does not overlap with the food of the next 9 mins. (That is not to eat the food at the end of one 9 min. period and the next lot at the start of the next 9 mins. But rather there should be 9 mins between each lot of food.).

Before the fast one can prepare a small measuring cup and determine the size of the food (it is about what fits into an average Israeli match-box), or drink.

May you be healthy in body and soul, and inscribed for a good year.

Please Note: This site is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for personal medical advice.

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