Leviticus 23 describes some commands in regards to Yom Kippur in which it teaches us to afflict ourselves (verse 27). Although I'm familiar with most of the commentaries which teach what this 'affliction of ourselves' mean, I noticed something else.

It explicitly says (vers 28-30) that no manner of work (melachah) can be done, because it's Yom Kippur a day to make atonement for ourselves before HaShem our G-d. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from his people and whatsoever soul it be that doeth any manner of work in that same day, that soul will I destroy from among his people.

There seem to be some connection between work or not working and between to afflict or not to afflict.

And it doesn't seem to stop here it goes on with verse 31: Ye shall do no manner of work; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. And again states in verse 32: It shall be unto you a sabbath of solemn rest, and ye shall afflict your souls; in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye keep your sabbath.

Why is it so important to afflict oneself in 'rest'? Why this connection between the two?

P.s. Isaiah 58 seems to describe a situation in which people follow or pursue their own interests, one example of this is by letting others work for themselves while they were fasting (while working is forbidden, like it's on a Shabat; and everyone and every living thing has to rest, see also verse 13). Adventually they find themselves surprised that HaShem didn't recognize their fast, but they should not have let others work for themselves on that particular day.

And then HaShem asks: Is such the fast that I have chosen, the day for a man to afflict his soul? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Me? To continue by stating: "Is not this the fast that I have chosen.." after which HaShem explains that one has to refrain himself from things that really matter.

This story seem to relate to the affliction, but it clearly states that fasting alone isn't sufficient and that one has to refrain from a lot of things and keep from any work on a shabat (a day of rest), from pursuing one's own business on His holy day (verse 13).

So again why is the link between refraining and keeping rest so important?

1 Answer 1


I've heard the following inference drawn from the words of Rambam in support of the point you're making. (I'm afraid I can't recall where or when I heard this.)

First, note that Rambam gave the section of laws dealing with Yom Kippur in his Mishneh Torah the title "Hilchot Shevitat Asor" (the Laws of Refraining on the Tenth [of Tishrei]). In this section, he discusses the laws of Yom Kippur in terms of shevita (refraining) from both work and physical pleasures.

In Chapter 1 Law 1 he writes:

מצות עשה לשבות ממלאכה בעשור לחודש השביעי שנאמר שבת שבתון הוא לכם

There is a positive commandment to refrain from work on the tenth of the seventh month, as it states "it shall be a Sabbath of rest for you".

Then, in Law 4 he writes:

מצות עשה אחרת יש ביום הכיפורים, והיא לשבות בו מאכילה ושתייה שנאמר תענו את נפשותיכם

There is another positive commandment on Yom Kippur, and that is to refrain from eating and drinking, as it states, "Afflict your souls".

The message that I think emerges is that afflicting ourselves on Yom Kippur is not some independent idea of "mortification of the flesh". Rather, it exists on a continuum together with the restrictions in place on other holy days during the year.

If on shabbat, we refrain from interacting with the outside world in a creative sense, in order to create a space in which to better be able to focus on the spiritual, on Yom Kippur we take that one step further and refrain from any sort of involvement with our material needs, and spend the day totally immersed in the spiritual realm.

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