Is there a Mitzvah to Eat Tonight? An Overview of the Mitzvah of Eating on Erev Yom Kippur


(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

On Yom Kippur we fast, and on Erev Yom Kippur we eat.  But when does that Mitzvah begin?


The Shulchan Aruch (OC 604:1) rules that there is a Torah Mitzvah on Erev Yom Kippur to do the following three things:

  • Eat
  • Drink (included in eating – see Yuma 81b)
  • And have a festive food-filled meal.

Women also are obligated in this Mitzvah, although some Achronim (e.g. Rabbi Akiva Eiger, the Rashash) expressed doubt about this point.


Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaarei Teshuvah 4:9) indicates that this meal should be served and eaten exactly as one would eat a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal. Although the Shla writes that Lechem Mishna should be used, the custom is not to require it.

Previously, Rabbeinu Yonah writes (Shaarei Teshuva 4:8) that the Mitzvah is so that we can show our happiness that Hashem gave us this opportunity for Teshuvah.  Because of this reason, we can understand why even a sick person who may not fast still has the Mitzvah of eating on Erev Yom Kippur.

Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky shlita rules that the Mitzvos of Erev Yom Kippur are only of 2 of the 5 counter-afflictions – eating and drinking – they do not include the three others such as washing or anointing the body, and specifically wearing leather shoes, etc.


Rashi (Rosh Hashana 9a) explains that the reason for this Torah Mitzvah is on account of Hashem’s love for us. He commanded this Mitzvah to His children so that we would be able to tolerate the fasting. Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaarei Teshuvah 4:10) explains that it is so that we can better focus on our prayers and on how we can do Teshuvah.

Indeed, the Gemorah in Brachos (8a) instructs us that we should limit our learning slightly on this day in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of eating.


Most authorities hold that there is no Mitzvah of eating on the night prior to Yom Kippur. The Shla HaKadosh, however, did write to eat the night before as well.

There is a concept known as zrizim makdimim l’mitzvos that those who are alacritous — rush to do Mitzvos. This is derived in the Gemorah in Psachim (4a) from the fact that Avrohom arose early in the morning to do the Mitzvah of Bris Milah. Rav Shlomo Kluger (Shnos Chaim #64) writes that one should therefore eat the first meal very early.

On the other hand, the Chsam Sofer went to the Mikvah on Erev Yom Kippur prior to the first Seudah. Both the Otzar HaTfilos Siddur and the Yesod v’Shoresh HaAvodah siddur have a ‘l’shaim yichud” to be recited before the seudah. They also write to recite the pasuk of Vayehi Noam.


There is a debate among the Poskim as to whether there is an obligation to wash on bread for the seudos of the day. The Sdei Chemed (1 Os Hay) writes that one is obligated as does Rav Eliyahu Pinchas HaCohen of Reina (Elef HaMagain 604:42). The Minchas Chinuch (Mitzvah #313) is unsure. Others are lenient.

One last halachic point:  The Minchas Chinuch holds that one only fulfills the Mitzvah with an eating that is biblically forbidden on Yom Kippur.  This would include the time limit of eating known as bichdei achilas pras – generally 2-8 minutes depending upon who one paskins like.

May we all have a meaningful fast.


The author can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Assuming there is a mitzvah to eat a hearty meal the night before kol nidre, it certainly wouldn’t be a salty corned beef or pastrami sandwich as pictured in the article.

    A gmar tov and easy fast to all.

  2. The Mishna Berura in 604 s”k 2 says that one who makes a neder not to eat meat, may eat meat on Erev Yom Kippur at night. Rabbi Zev Hofstedter says (Kittzur Halachos) from here, according to the Mishna Berura there is a mitzva to eat at night.