Matot-Masei: Yoma 79 - 85
The Nature of the Ninth
Rabbi Chiya bar Rav from Difti taught, “Whoever eats on the ninth (of Tishrei) is considered as having fasting on both the ninth and the tenth.”
Rabbi Chiya bar Rav from Difti explains the basis for this novel mitzvah of eating prior to Yom Kippur and that the act of eating is deemed by Hashem as an act of fasting: The Torah states (in Vayikra 23:32), “You will afflict yourselves on the ninth day of the month (of Tishrei) at evening.” “Do we fast on the ninth?” says the Sage rhetorically. “Rather, we fast on the tenth (i.e. Yom Kippur)! It must be that this verse is teaching that whoever eats on the ninth (and then fasts on the tenth) is considered as having fasted on both the ninth and the tenth.”
Rashi explains the rationale for this derivation. The Torah says, “And you will afflict (v’anitem) yourselves on the ninth of the month in the evening.” This means that there is a mitzvah to prepare on the ninth in order to be able to fast on the tenth, meaning that there is a mitzvah to eat on the ninth. And since the Torah chose to express one’s eating on the ninth with the Hebrew word that the Torah uses for the affliction of fasting on Yom Kippur — inui — it follows that one who eats on the ninth is considered akin to fasting on that day, as well as fasting on the following day of Yom Kippur.
The upshot: Just as there is a mitzvah to fast on Yom Kippur, there is similarly a mitzvah to eat on the day before Yom Kippur, and one who eats on the ninth is considered as having fasted on both the ninth and the tenth.
This mitzvah of eating on the ninth of Tishrei is codified as halacha in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 604. Most authorities rule that this is Torah mitzvah, derived from this verse. Some, however, say that it is a rabbincally enacted mitzvah, and that the verse is an asmachta to the future institution of this mitzvah by the rabbis.
Rashi here and in Berachot 8b writes that the purpose of the mitzvah to eat on the ninth is as a lead-up in preparation for fasting well on Yom Kippur (to improve one’s ability to confess to Hashem one’s wrongdoings and attain atonement).
In this sense, eating on the ninth is intrinsically connected with the mitzvah to fast on the next day and can be viewed, in a sense, as “one long mitzvah.” However, Rashi in Rosh Hashana 9a and other Rishonim seem to indicate that the mitzvah to eat on the ninth is of an independent nature, and, therefore, an independent mitzvah that is not part of the mitzvah to fast on the tenth.
The commentaries discuss numerous practical differences in halacha that result from these two different understandings of the mitzvah to eat on the ninth. Here we will briefly try to touch on two of these matters of halacha.
One topic is whether the mitzvah to eat on the ninth applies to women (See Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s responsa, #15). If the mitzvah to eat on the ninth is inherently tied to the mitzvah to fast on the tenth, one should conclude that women are obligated in the mitzvah to eat on the ninth in the same way as are men. However, if eating on the ninth is an independent mitzvah, one would assume that women would be exempt from the requirement to fulfill the mitzvah of eating on the ninth (although common sense would almost certainly dictate for women to eat on the ninth, nevertheless, in order to facilitate their fasting on the tenth!) This exemption would be based on the rule that women are exempt from a mitzvah aseh she’hazman grama — a “time-bound” mitzvah to do something (in this case, to eat at a specific time, i.e. on a specific date).
An additional matter to examine when considering these two ways of looking at the nature of the mitzvah to eat on the ninth is to determine whether the mitzvah begins on the night that begins the ninth day of Tishrei, or if the mitzvah applies only in the daytime that precedes Yom Kippur. If the mitzvah to eat on the ninth is meant to better fast on Yom Kippur, as Rashi writes on our daf, it stands to reason that the mitzvah to eat on the ninth is only in the daytime hours preceding the Yom Kippur fast. However, Rabbbeinu Nissim (Nedarim 63b) writes that the mitzvah should begin on the evening that begins the ninth, and continue throughout the day of the ninth. This would be consistent with the view that the mitzvah to eat on the ninth is comparable to eating on any other independent Yom Tov, which begins with a special meal from at the onset of its date.
As a final note on this topic for now, we should not forget to address a seemingly obvious question when discussing the mitzvah to eat on erev Yom Kippur. The commentaries ask why the mitzvah to eat on the ninth is expressed in the terminology of fasting — inui — rather than of eating (achila). The key to answering this question is to know that one receives greater reward for doing a mitzvah that might be uncomfortable than for performing a pain-free mitzvah (“lfum tzaarah agra”). For this reason, the Torah expresses the mitzvah to eat on the ninth in terms of fasting — to teach that one who eats on the ninth receives the greater Divine reward of fulfilling this enjoyable mitzvah of eating, as if fulfilling it with the discomfort of fasting.
- Yoma 81b