I certainly don't want to offend anyone, but if it is asked in Isaiah 58 whether it is this manner of fasting that G-d has chose; when one starves oneself, practices self-denial, afflicting one's soul or answers for one's soul, and bows the head, spreading sackcloth and ashes, and so on.. what's the answer? Are such habits acceptable to G-d? Because it seems we have similar habits on Yom Kippur, while from from Isaiah 58:6 on [isn't this the fast that I've chosen?] it becomes clear that G-d might hold a different point of view when He talks about fasting, i.e. that it should be about breaking/loosing the chains of wickedness etc..

(Or should I translate the words in Isaiah 58:5 הכזה יהיה צום אבחרהו יום as "Such will be the fast I will choose, a day upon", and the words הלזה תקרא צום, ויום רצון ליהוה as "This will be called a fasting, a day acceptable to the Lord", in such a case the beginning of Isaiah 58:6 הלוא זה צום אבחרהו could be confirmatory "After all, this is the fast I will choose")

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    I think the point is that if one only afflicts oneself on a fast day, without changing one's behavior, the fast is meaningless, and, in fact, offensive to G-d. One is supposed to use the various fast day practices (which we certainly must keep) as a spur to real internal change, and improvement in one's behavior towards his fellow.
    – Joel K
    Sep 12, 2021 at 10:16
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    The choice of this passage as the haftarah for Yom Kippur morning has always struck me as one of the most brilliant and profound parts of the day's synagogue service - if only more people would actually pay attention to it being read...
    – Joel K
    Sep 12, 2021 at 10:18

1 Answer 1


It's not an either/or. Afflicting yourself while continuing to do evil is a waste of time. Instead, be sincere, improve your ways, and then when you fast it will be meaningful.

"Isn't this the fast I want?" does not mean "instead of fasting, do kindness"; it means "do kindness, and then fast."

So the Yom Kippur message is okay we are all here in synagogue fasting; that's a necessary but not sufficient condition; how we conduct ourselves when we leave is going to make all the difference.

Isaiah 58:5 and 6 both start with the letter heh with a chataf-patach vowel -- indicating a question (and often a rhetorical one). Yes, if you're not attuned to the nuances of Biblical Hebrew, you can wind up reading those backwards:

ה הֲכָזֶה, יִהְיֶה צוֹם אֶבְחָרֵהוּ--יוֹם עַנּוֹת אָדָם, נַפְשׁוֹ; הֲלָכֹף כְּאַגְמֹן רֹאשׁוֹ, וְשַׂק וָאֵפֶר יַצִּיעַ--הֲלָזֶה תִּקְרָא-צוֹם, וְיוֹם רָצוֹן לַיהוָה. ו הֲלוֹא זֶה, צוֹם אֶבְחָרֵהוּ--פַּתֵּחַ חַרְצֻבּוֹת רֶשַׁע, הַתֵּר אֲגֻדּוֹת מוֹטָה; וְשַׁלַּח רְצוּצִים חָפְשִׁים, וְכָל-מוֹטָה תְּנַתֵּקוּ.

  1. Do you think that behavior like this would make a fast that I'd choose?! [Simply] someone afflicting himself ... should he wave his head like a reed and put out sack and ash -- would you call that a fast, and a day of pleasing God?! [No way!]
  1. [Instead...] isn't this the fast I would choose?! [One including] releasing the bundles of wickedness ... releasing the oppressed ...
  • So could you please help me translate (with interpunction) Isaiah 58:5 and and help me understand what the way these sentences are ment.
    – Levi
    Sep 12, 2021 at 12:53

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