As if spontaneous combustion on Erev Pesach wasn't enough, Mishnah Pesachim 4:4 recommends actively setting people on fire on Yom Kippur:

מְקוֹם שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ לְהַדְלִיק אֶת הַנֵּר בְּלֵילֵי יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים, מַדְלִיקִין. מְקוֹם שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ שֶׁלֹּא לְהַדְלִיק, אֵין מַדְלִיקִין. וּמַדְלִיקִין בְּבָתֵּי כְנֵסִיּוֹת וּבְבָתֵּי מִדְרָשׁוֹת, וּבַמְּבוֹאוֹת הָאֲפֵלִים, וְעַל גַּבֵּי הַחוֹלִים:

A place where the custom is to light a candle on the nights of Yom Kippur - we light. A place where the custom is not to light - we don't light. We light in shuls, study halls, dark alleyways, and on the backs of sick people.

Furthermore, Mishnah Terumos 11:10 (h/t Heshy) says one can even do this with Terumah oil, if the sick person is owned by a Kohen:

מַדְלִיקִין שֶׁמֶן שְׂרֵפָה בְּבָתֵּי כְנֵסִיּוֹת, וּבְבָתֵּי מִדְרָשׁוֹת, וּבַמְּבוֹאוֹת הָאֲפֵלִין, וְעַל גַּבֵּי הַחוֹלִין בִּרְשׁוּת כֹּהֵן

We light Terumah oil that must be burned in shuls, study halls, dark alleyways, and on the backs of sick people owned by a Kohen.

Why are we advised to set fire to sick people's backs on Yom Kippur night?

This question is Purim Torah and is not intended to be taken completely seriously. See the Purim Torah policy.

  • And you can even use terumah temeiah oil for this! Last mishnah in Terumos.
    – Heshy
    Mar 10, 2019 at 19:23
  • @Heshy Totally forgot about that Mishnah - thanks!
    – DonielF
    Mar 10, 2019 at 19:24

1 Answer 1


The Mishnah is talking about the ancient medical practice of Cauterization. Cauterization is the practice of burning wounds (in ancient times with a red hot iron) in order to prevent bleeding. Wounds were often cauterized during surgeries and amputations to prevent hemorrhages and infection. The Mishnah here is mainly referring to the cauterization performed after a surgery.

The reason the patients were treated on Yom Kippur night was because Yom Kippur is a time of forgiveness. Although cauterization can be a potentially life-saving treatment, it is still extremely dangerous. It has the ill-effect of possibly speeding up infections and causing the sick person's death. Many people were afraid (and rightly so) that they would die from the treatment because of their sins. Therefore, the Mishnah tells us to cauterize wounds on Yom Kippur, when the sins are forgiven, so the surgery should have a higher chance of success.

In general, oil from terumah is permitted for this, because it is a case of pikuach nefesh. However, the Mishnah in Terumos is talking about a case where there is both regular and terumah oil available. In that case, it is permitted to use the terumah oil only if the person being treated is owned by a kohen.

  • Then why must the sick person be owned by a Kohen? For Pikuach Nefesh, any sick person should be permitted!
    – DonielF
    Mar 10, 2019 at 19:28
  • @DonielF, sorry, that part was incomplete. See my updated answer.
    – Rafael
    Mar 10, 2019 at 19:39

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