In commanding us to observe Yom HaKippurim, the Torah uses a very striking formulation. Vayikra 23:32 states: " the ninth of the month in the evening, from evening until evening shall you observe your Shabbat (i.e. Yom HaKippurim)." What is going on here? We know that Yom HaKippurim is on the tenth of the month of Tishrei, and so why is the Torah referring us to the ninth? This very question is asked by Rav Chiya of Difti in Yoma 81b, and he answers that the verse is telling us that anyone who eats and drinks on the ninth of Tishrei is considered to have fasted on both the ninth and the tenth. This derasha (exegesis) is the basis for the command for us to eat on the day preceding Yom HaKippurim.

What is the nature of this mitzvah? There are two parts to this question. The first issue is to what degree is the command to eat on the ninth a function of the fasting that one does on the tenth? The second issue is in what way are the two days related (other than mere calendrical proximity)?

The Netziv in his commentary Ha'amek She'eilah to Rav Hai Gaon's She'iltot (cited by Rav Yitzchak Mirsky in Hegyonei Halacha) states that there are two possible approaches to the first question. On the one hand, the ninth may be a day that is its own "mini-holiday," with no real connection to the fast. On the other hand, it may be special only because of the fast that follows it. What would be the practical difference in taking these two approaches? One example given is that if one was sick and did not have to fast, then whether or not they had to eat on the ninth would depend on how one viewed that day.

While the vast majority of opinions take the second approach, there are a few who see the ninth as having its own character. One such view is that of Rav Binyamin, the brother of the author of the Shibbolei HaLeket (which cites him). He states that one must eat on the ninth to show that the Torah did not mean that one should fast on the ninth, thus contradicting the view of the Sadducees, who interpreted the verse in an extremely literal fashion. By eating on the ninth, explains Rav Binyamin, one displays his belief that only the Sages have been given the power to interpret the words of the Torah.

Leaving that aside, we will now investigate the various opinions as to the nature of the relationship between the ninth of Tishrei and Yom HaKippurim. Rashi in Yoma states that one must eat on the ninth so that they will be able to endure the fast on the tenth. Meiri sharpens this a bit by saying that since the eating is done as a means to the fast, the eating itself gains the status of a mitzvah. Rashi then takes the discussion to its next level, namely answering why the Torah used the term of "inui," i.e. affliction with regard to this commandment instead of the usual "achila," eating? To this he answers that the Torah is telling us that anyone who eats on the ninth is actually considered to have afflicted himself or fasted on both days. Why this should be so is not mentioned by Rashi, although it is taken up by later sources.

Maharsha on Pesachim 68b gives a bit more of an answer. He states that the eating on the ninth is connected to the fasting on the tenth to show how Hashem has mercy on His people and provides a mitzvah for them by which they can survive the fast. As far as the strange language of the Torah goes, he notes that there is greater reward for afflicting oneself than for doing a mitzvah that requires one to have physical enjoyment, and thus the Torah used the term "affliction." He then adds that, in a sense, the eating done on the ninth is on a higher level than the fasting of Yom HaKippurim. How is this so? When one eats, one is involved in the physical and mundane, and thus is, as it were, playing on the turf of the evil inclination. While fasting avoids that inclination entirely, making eating into a positive commandment actively combats it.

The Perisha points out that if one were to fast on both days, then Yom HaKippurim would not be as recognizable, and thus one must eat on the day before it. This idea has its source in Pesachim 68b, where we are told that Mar the son of Ravina would fast every day of the year except for Shavuot (which is "kulo lachem" - entirely for us), Purim (where there is a mitzvah to eat), and the day before Yom HaKippurim. The Taz points out that the Torah used the term "inui" because there is more reward for afflicting oneself. however, he then notes that if this is the case, then when we eat we are actually doing something that we are not commanded to do, and one who does a mitzvah that they are not commanded to do receives less reward than one who does a mitzvah that he is commanded to do! That being the case, why did the Torah not command us to eat? He answers that this is exactly what Rashi means when he says that the eating on the ninth has the status of "inui" - by eating we actually are doing what we are commanded to do.

There are two other reasons that are somewhat different explaining why we eat on the ninth of Tishrei. The view of the Shibbolei HaLeket is that by eating on the ninth, one actually makes the fast harder, since he is now ready for food (see also Aruch HaShulchan). As such, he gets credit for fasting on both days. The second alternative is provided by the Chochmat Shlomo, who states that if one eats before Yom HaKippurim, and then enters the Day of Judgment and realizes that he wasted his time right beforehand eating and indulging in pleasures of the flesh, he will be overcome by his foolishness and will thus focus more on his repentance.

How obligatory is this mitzvah? While we have established the fact that eating on the ninth serves the purposes of the fast of Yom HaKippurim, could one opt to fast on the ninth as well? In a word, no. Tosafot on Rosh HaShana 9b state that one is not allowed to fast on this day, as proved by the case of Mar the son of Ravina mentioned above. The Hagahot Maimoniyot agrees with this view, and the Maharil states that one should not fast on this day even if they had a bad dream (when one would normally fast) or if they had pledged to keep a series of fasts. The Perisha points out that fasting on the ninth would sever the connection between the ninth and the tenth, a connection that we have demonstrated contributes to the essence of the day. The Magen Avraham goes so far as to say that anyone who fasts on this day has to fast again after Yom HaKippurim to atone for fasting on this day (although the Taz opposes this notion).

With regard to what one should actually eat, the Levush and the Kol-Bo are somewhat conservative, stating that one should eat lighter foods, such as chicken and fish so that one will not be full and thus perhaps haughty when then come to pray on Yom HaKippurim. The Magen Avraham adds that one may actually fast up until the final meal before the fast, since one need only eat a little bit, and only once, in order to fulfill this commandment. However, the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 604) states that the mitzvah is to eat a lot, and the Aruch HaShulchan says that one should eat, drink, and be merry, confident of the fact that Hashem will forgive them for their sins. Thus, one should eat meat as they would on any other holiday. The Shlah notes that one who vowed not to eat meat except on days when Tachanun is omitted can eat meat on this day, although the Magen Avraham raises the possibility that this day is different since while no Tachanun is said, it is said in the mincha on the day before hand, thus differentiating it from other holidays. Speaking quantitatively, the Minchat Chinuch states that the minimal required measurement that one must eat is a kotevet, roughly the size of a large date. This is the same measurement that one is forbidden to eat on Yom HaKippurim, thus prompting the Minchat Pitim to state that this is why the Torah used the term "inui." The term "achila" would refer to the regular measurement of a k'zayit (size of an olive), but by using this term and linking it up to Yom HaKippurim itself, the Torah clues us in as to how much we must eat to fulfill this commandment. While the Minchat Chinuch claims that one does not need to eat bread, the footnotes in the Machon edition of that work suggest that since the eating is so that one can persevere through the fast, then perhaps we should eat bread or some other staple product.

Our final issue is whether or not women have this commandment as well. The Chochmat Shlomo raises this issue and asks whether women are obligated in this as are men, or if they are freed from their obligation since it is a positive time-bound commandment. He claims that women are obligated, since they are also obligated in the other aspects of Yom HaKippurim, and the two are inherently connected. He thus postulates that the phrasing of the Torah is for this purpose - since women are obligated to observe positive commandments whose performance mandates passivity, the Torah thus commanded us in "inui," which implies self-affliction and denial. Thus, even when we claim that this refers to eating, the terminology is still able to include women. Rav Akiva Eiger was unsure about this law, but his grandson the Ktav Sofer ruled that since the eating is to facilitate the fasting, therefore women are certainly obligated to eat on the ninth.

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