Besides the Bible commanding the saints to do so, why do we “afflict our souls” (i.e., fast) on Yom Kippur? What are the spiritual benefits? How does it bring you closer to and in unity with your Creator and your fellow man? Why should fasting be part of your spiritual growth regimen? Learn how fasting makes your spirit man stronger and your flesh nature weaker — all in this video.
What Is Fasting?
It [the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur] is a day to afflict your souls (Lev 16:29 and 23:27) or literally “to humble ourselves.” The word afflict is the Hebrew word anah (Strong’s H6031) meaning “to oppress with the idea of humility or meekness in mind coupled with the idea of a suffering life rather than with one of worldly happiness and abundance” (The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 2, p. 682). The JPS Jewish Study Bible translates the phrase afflict yourselves as “you shall practice self denial.” Although this verse does not specifically mention fasting as a component of Yom Kippur, Jewish understanding on the term afflict your souls is firm that this refers to fasting (the ArtScroll Tanach Series Vayikra/Leviticus Commentary, p. 404). With this view in mind, the pre-eminent nineteenth-century Orthodox Jewish sage, Samson Raphael Hirch in his commentary translates afflict your souls as “starve your vital spirits” (The Penteteuch-Leviticus, p. 678). However, there is a scriptural link to be found between afflicting one’s soul and fasting (i.e., abstaining from food). That link is to be found in Isaiah 58, which some Bible commentators believe is a reference to Yom Kippur. In verses three and eight, the terms afflict [one’s] soul and fast are used synonymously. The word for fast is the Hebrew word tsuwm (Strong’s H6684) meaning “to abstain from food.” We also see the connection between fasting and afflicting the soul in Psalm 35:13 where David states, “I humbled/afflicted my soul with fasting.”
Additionally, rabbinical thought teaches that Leviticus 23:27 suggests five afflictions that one must endure on Yom Kippur: no eating and drinking, no washing oneself, no anointing oneself, no wearing leather shoes, and no cohabitation. It is suggested that these five afflictions correspond to the five times the term soul/nephesh are found in this passage (i.e., verses once each in 27 and 29, twice in 30, and once in 32; see Baal HaTurim’s commentary on Lev 23:27).
Christian commentators, Keil and Delitzsch begin to connect the dots for us as to why fasting is tied to atonement. We read, Continue reading