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I found sources that say that there is a Minhag not to eat sesame in Erev Yom Kippur, since it is considered as a heavy food and might disturb the dawening in Yom Kippur. I would like to understand why the sesame has such an impact. Can it be s small garlic that might sound same?

Here is one of the sources I found for the Minhag of not eating sesame in Erev Yom Kippur:

ובסעודה המפסקת לא יאכל בשמים וכורכום ושומשומין רק מאכלים קלים כדי שלא יהא שבע יותר מדי ויפריע לו להתפלל [...] one should not eat spices, turmeric, sesame. Only light foods, so that he will not be too full and that it will not interfere with praying.

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The reason behind this is that sesame seeds are one of the foods that can cause a person to regurgitate and causes one to feel full (of eating the meal). The Alter Rebbe in his Shulchan Aruch HaRav (608:8) writes:

On the day preceding Yom Kippur, even during the morning meal, one should eat only foods that are readily digestible (so that he will not be [overly] satiated),39 e.g., fowl and fish, so that he will not be satisfied and proud while praying on the day preceding Yom Kippur.

Sesame should be avoided, since it can cause reflux. It can also cause nausea, vomiting, coughing etc... See also here:

Sesame is the ninth most common food allergy among children and adults in the U.S. The edible seeds of the sesame plant are a common ingredient in cuisines around the world, from baked goods to sushi. Several reports suggest this allergy has increased significantly worldwide over the past two decades.1

When a person with an allergy to sesame is exposed to sesame, proteins in the sesame bind to specific IgE antibodies made by the person’s immune system. This triggers the person’s immune defenses, leading to reaction symptoms that can be mild or very severe.

Starting January 1, 2023, sesame will become the ninth major allergen that must be labeled in plain language on packaged foods in the U.S. While some manufacturers may begin labeling for sesame sooner, they are not required to do so.

Thus, sesame should be avoided, since it can cause one to regurgitate.

Shulchan Aruch HaRav 608:10

One should not eat sesame seeds on the day preceding Yom Kippur, [lest] they cause regurgitation on Yom Kippur.

Also, garlic and eggs should also be avoided, since these are products that causes the human body to produce sperm (see: footnote 9).

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  • I don't think their potential as an allergen would be sufficient grounds for this minhag. There are plenty of other things that are far more commonly a source of allergic reaction (milk, eggs, wheat, etc.). The same applies to reflux, for sufferers of reflux there are a great many things that can trigger it and a sprinkling of sesame seeds is pretty low down on the list. I think most attempts to shoehorn the basis of the custom into modern medicine will be subject to this type of criticism. The simple reason (at least in AS ha-Rav), is that it was believed to cause regurgitation (מעלה גרה). Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 21:30
  • I agree, but maybe this type of food was extremely famous back then. I do not know why it specifies this food.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 21:48
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    I've posted an answer that traces the origin of the belief as regards sesame within Jewish texts, see below. Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 2:18
  • Interesting!...
    – Shmuel
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 13:11
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It goes back to R. Yehudah ha-Hasid's Sefer Hasidim (רס"ה). The original context is where he says that if you want someone to regurgitate like an animal that raises its cud, you should have the person eat all that he needs and then take a fistful of sesame and have him swallow it, and then he'll be regurgitating all day long... and for that reason one should not consume sesame (presumably in this aforementioned way) on שבת lest they raise up their food whilst traversing the public domain and thereby violate the prohibition on carrying.

אם תחפוץ מאדם שיהא מעלה גרה כבהמה לא תודיעהו שאתה מתכוין לכך לאחר שיאכל וישתה כל צרכיו תן לו מלא אגרופיך שומשמין ויכוס אותן ויבלע כל היום יהא מעלה גרה כבהמה לפיכך לא יאכל אדם שומשומין בשבת וכיוצא בו לאחר אכילתו שמא יצא לרשות הרבים ומאכל בפיו

Later codifiers (Magen Abhraham, Be'er Hetebh, et al), taking R. Yehudah ha-Hasid's folk-medicine (and attendant halakhic advice) as factual, extrapolated from it and suggested that one ought not eat sesame on the eve of Yom Kippur, lest it cause one to regurgitate on YK itself and thereby either violate the prohibition of eating or cause an interruption to prayer.

It does not seem to be the case that contemporary medicine finds sesame to possess an emetic property, however it would be interesting to see if there are any 12th c. gentile sources from Germany or thereabouts that make similar claims regarding sesame.

Given that the minhag appears to be based on antiquated medical knowledge, it presents an interesting question concerning whether it ought be deemed authoritative/binding upon those that had previously accepted it.

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  • Thanks a lot for your elaborated answer. I would like to ask if nowadays, this minhag is still applicable. As far as I know nowadays, sesame does not cause the described side effects. In addition, if sesame does not cause someone regurgitate, can he eat sesame in Erev Yom Kippur?
    – Avi
    Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 18:23
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    @Avi Those are good follow up questions. I don't believe there is much (if any) literature dedicated specifically to the question of sesame by light of current medical knowledge. However, halakhah/minhag based on outdated medicine/science is a broader discussion that you may want to explore. I suspect one end of the spectrum would argue that there is (or may be) a hidden esoteric meaning to the minhag, and therefore its still binding. On the other hand, the argument would be made that it is strictly based on the science, and where the science doesn't hold up, it may be disbanded with. Commented Dec 18, 2022 at 4:47

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