This is a somewhat silly question, but I'm sure it has a good answer and I'd like to know what it is.

Unfortunately, I was hospitalized recently and I ended up being in hospital over Yom Kippur. (Everything ended up perfectly well in the end.) At that time, they were mostly just doing tests and keeping me under observation, but I did have an IV drip so they could give me some medicine and rebalance my electrolytes. Anyway, since I wasn't that sick at that point I asked the doctors whether it would endanger my health to fast and I was told 'we need to keep the IV drip in anyway, and there's no medical obstruction to you fasting if the drip is in place'. So I fasted.

As you might expect given the physiology of dehydration, fasting with an IV drip in made for the easiest fast of my life!

Now, obviously in this case there was a genuine medical reason why I needed to have the IV drip, but it got me thinking: would it be allowed for a completely healthy person to put themselves on an IV drip (before the start of Yom Kippur) and then keep the drip in throughout the holiday. (Just so as to make the fast easier.) To focus on the core of the question, let's suppose that the person in question holds a medical license (so can put a drip in completely safely), has all the equipment in hand to put the drip in themselves, and lives in a country where there are no medical licensing laws so wouldn't be breaking the secular law by doing this.

It feels like the answer to this question must be 'no', but I couldn't work out what the reasoning would be. Could anyone enlighten me?

(I was constantly thinking that if Dr House was Jewish, he probably would do this every year!)


2 Answers 2


[I tried "my own approach" in another answer on this page but wanted to also bring in the answers from serious poskim - I am gratified that I came to a conclusion similar to R Sternbuch using the same sources]

R Daniel Mann from Eretz Hemdah writes

The question of whether someone may take intravenous nutrition on Yom Kippur to not be as affected by the fast is a good one [...] We mentioned that many consider it a full-fledged rabbinic violation, which is certainly forbidden, and [R Moshe Sternbuch in] Teshuvot V’hanhagot (II, 290) makes an interesting (he admits it is unproven) claim that intravenous nutrition violates a Torah positive commandment to afflict oneself (Vayikra 23:29).

Regarding a healthy person, then, there would be no justification. Even if there is no violation, it still seems like something novel against the spirit of the law, which would itself be a bad idea in general and certainly on Yom Kippur.

R Moshe Donnebaum writes

May a regular person who must fast ingest food artificially to ease or eliminate the discomfort of fasting? On this question, the poskim differentiate between an unwell person (choleh she'ain bo sakana) and a healthy person [...] With regard to a healthy person whose sole intention is to avoid the discomfort of the fast, [R Mordechai Yaakov Breish in] Chelkat Yakov (OC 216, 217) prohibits any form of artificial food ingestion.

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvot V’hanhagot II, 290 - same as above) opines that artificial feeding may even be a Biblical transgression. He explains that our whole thesis that without physically eating there is no Biblical transgression may only apply to the negative mitzva against eating on Yom Kippur, but the positive mitzva to fast may apply to any kind of nourishment (he derives this point from the words of the Rambam beginning Hilkh. Shvitat Asor). Therefore though we may be lenient for a choleh who is able to fast, a well person should definitely not use any form of artificial feeding to lessen his hunger pangs.

Last R Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe OC 3:90) writes that it is forbidden to inflict a wound for non-healing purposes. This might further limit our ability to eat through IVs when not required medically.

  • What if the process could be accomplished without inflicting a wound? Like a dermal sugar/insulin patch? There is no ingestion of any kind - we're bypassing the gut entirely. I definitely agree that, even if there is no bittul asei, it is not in the spirit of the law, and hence the spirit of the day... Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 20:25

The Nishmat Avraham writes (vol 1, p. 303) that

a patient fed by naso-gastric tube or via PEG (tube through the abdominal wall) may be fed as usual on Yom Kippur since the prohibition of eating only applies if both his throat and stomach enjoy the food.

The reason I think, like you do, that it would be forbidden for a healthy person to do so is that the Torah explicits commands (Bamidbar 29:7)

And on the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; and you shall afflict your souls; you shall do no manner of work.

which has been understood as not eating, drinking, wearing shoes, washing/anointing and marital relations. See for instance Rambam's Sefer Hamitzvot (positive 164)

The 164th mitzvah is that we are commanded to fast on the tenth of Tishrei [i.e. Yom Kippur]. The source of this commandment is G‑d's statement (exalted be He), "You must afflict your lives." The Sifra explains: "The expression 'You must afflict your lives' refers to 'affliction' that affects one's actual life. What is that? Eating and drinking."

or Mishne Torah (Hilkh. Shvitat Asor 1:4)

There is another positive commandment on Yom Kippur, to refrain from eating and drinking, as [Leviticus 16:29] states: "You shall afflict your souls." According to the Oral Tradition, it has been taught: What is meant by afflicting one's soul? Fasting. Whoever fasts on this day fulfills a positive commandment. Whoever eats or drinks on this day negates the observance of [this] positive commandment and violates a negative commandment, as [ibid. 23:29] states, "Any soul that does not afflict itself will be cut off." Since the Torah punishes a person who does not fast with karet, we can derive from this that we are forbidden to eat and drink on this day.

So you could "go around" the negative mitzvah of not eating, but remains the positive mitzvah of fasting and afflicting oneself. As you write, an IV "made for the easiest fast of my life", not exactly the definition of affliction :->

  • 2
    I don't find this particularly convincing. We aren't Karaites. We afflict ourselves in certain ways and not others. IV's are seemingly not not-afflicting.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 17:51
  • @DoubleAA see my other answer - I can't believe it by R Sternbuch comes to the same conclusion as I and uses the same sources. Reminds me of the mouse and elephant running in the desert, the mouse turns around and tells the elephant "did you see the dust that we create?"
    – mbloch
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 19:13

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