Questions for the Yomim Noraim

Q. I missed Selichot. I knew it was coming, but I didn't think it was after this Shabbat. Is this okay?

A. There are a lot of important lessons here, including: we all make mistakes; we can't change the past; and there's no point in beating ourselves up over the errors that we make. That's what this time of year is all about: recognizing our mistakes and resolving to do better. If you missed Selichos one day, you get another chance to try again. So don't worry so much about if it's "okay" and just keeping on working towards becoming the person you'd like to be.


Q. Daniel 4:24 says, “with charity you will remove your sin.” How is this not trying to bribe God?

A. Thanks for your question. God can't be bribed – the Torah tells us so explicitly (Deut. 10:17) – and besides, He's not lacking anything that we can give Him! But what do we say during the yomim noraim? Teshuvah, tefillah and tzedaka can overturn a bad decree! We're not bribing God by doing so, we're changing our ways (or at least trying to). That's what Daniel is doing here: he's advising Nebuchadnezzar to change his ways by performing acts of charity. (You might consider it forestalling harsher punishment by performing community service.)


Q. Yom Kippur is a high holiday and people don't have the whole confession prayers to make it at home. What can be done in this case?

A. The Yom Kippur prayer book is commercially available in Hebrew and English in a wide array of editions from numerous publishers and most Orthodox people own several (generally preferring to use their own favorite prayer book even when attending the synagogue). Nowadays, I imagine one could even find the necessary text online and print it out for use at home in anticipation of the holiday. So there's a variety options available.


Q. (Referring to Yom Kippur): Why can't we suck on candy/ice or chew gum, if both are less than the size of a date?

A. When we say that one would be liable for eating something the size of a date, that means he could be punished for doing so. A volume smaller than that of a date is exempt from punishment but that doesn’t mean it’s permitted. It’s still prohibited.


Q. I read that from now on Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will always be on erev Shabbat.

A. I don't know where you saw that but it's not correct. In fact, the first day of Rosh Hashana can't fall on a Friday at all, and neither can Yom Kippur.

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