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It seems to be commonplace today for people to use caffeine suppositories on Yom Kippur, in order to deal with caffeine withdrawal from not being able to drink coffee.

I have to assume that this is because caffeine pills taken orally, which are much easier to find (and, I would assume, much easier to administer), are not seen as a superior option.

Why? Is this a concern about health (taking pills on an empty stomach), Halachah (taking pills orally is like eating, somehow), or something else (???)?

  • Unclear question. Do you want to know why suppositories are allowed on Yom Kippur while pills are not? – DanF Sep 22 '15 at 16:33
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    @DanF, the question seems clear enough to me. He wants to know why suppositories are used on YK while pills are not. – msh210 Sep 22 '15 at 16:34
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    @DanF (please reread the last paragraph of the question above. Then you can decide for yourself whether you consider this a medical question. I think it depends on what you mean by "medical question". Either way,) I think the question is sufficiently clear and is on-topic. – msh210 Sep 22 '15 at 17:01
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    Is anyone else a little freaked out that it's become commonplace for people to take caffeine suppositories on yom kippur? – Aaron Sep 22 '15 at 22:54
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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/44272/… – Joel K Sep 26 '17 at 6:36
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I think that this is due to halachic issues:

I recently heard a shiur from R. Asher Weiss discussing taking medication on Yom Kippur.

His bottom-line position was that taking pills orally is considered shelo k'derech achilah, and the pills themselves are defined as neveilah she'einah re'uyah. We pasken (following Rambam) that both of these categories are assur miderabbanan.

Therefore, oral medication is only permitted for a choleh (she'ein bo sakanah). Presumably, the people taking caffeine suppositories do not fall into the cateory of a choleh, which is why they won't take oral pills.

He didn't discuss suppositories at all, but I imagine that taking them is not considered any form of achilah and therefore it is muttar lechatchilah to take them.

One further complication with taking pills orally (even for a choleh) is if water is needed to help one swallow them, as drinking the water is k'derech achilah (and additionally we hold chatzi shiur assur min hatorah). R. Weiss mentioned that some poskim recommend rendering the water unfit by putting some dish soap into it, to make it shelo k'derech achilah. His personal ruling is to add a significant amount of salt to the water.

Thus, even if the person under discussion does have the status of a choleh, I can understand why they may prefer to take suppositories rather than needing to take a pill with unpleasant-tasting water.

  • Downvoter: Care to explain what you think needs fixing in this answer? – Joel K Aug 16 '18 at 7:23

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