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Women Having a Mitzvah of Eating on Erev Yom Kippur

Chazal in Rosh Hashana (10;1) say that a person who eats on the ninth of Tishrei is counted as if he fasted on both the ninth and tenth day of Tishrei. The Tur (604;1) paskens that there is a mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur. The Mishna Bereuah (1) says that one should learn less on Erev Yom Kippur so he should be able to be mekayem the mitzvah of achilah.

The Magen Avraham (1) says the mitzvah applies only during the day, and not the night of Erev Yom Kippur. The Gra and Rema argue with this position and say the mitzvah applies to night as well.

There is a machlokes haposkim whether this mitzvah is a de’Oraysa or de’Rabbanan. The Kessef Mishna in Hilchos Nedarim (3;9) says it is de’Rabbanan, whereas the Magen Avraham (570;9) says it is min Ha’Torah.

The reason for the mitzvah of eating on Erev Yom Kippur is brought down by Rashi in Brachos (8;2) and by the Rosh and Tur as well. They explain that Hashem loves Klal Yisroel so much that he gave them one day a year to fast and have their sins forgiven. Hashem therefore commanded Klal Yisroel to eat and drink the day before so that they should be able to fast in an easier fashion. The Shaarei Teshuva adds another reason we eat a meal on Erev Yom Kippur. We eat a meal every Yom Tov and since we can’t eat on Yom Kippur, we commemorate by eating the meal the day before.

There is a difference between these two reasons. If a person is sick and knows that he won’t be able to fast; if we go with shittas Rashi, he would not have to eat. However, if we follow the Rabbeinu Yona he would have to eat. This is brought down in the Haamek Sheilah sheilta (116;12). The Ksav Sofer (112) argues with this position and says once there is a mitzvah, we don’t pasken based on reasons, but the mitzvah is in effect no matter whether the reason applies or not. Therefore, even if a person knows he will not fast on Yom Kippur he still has the mitzvah of eating on Erev Yom Kippur since it is still a Yom Tov.

The following interesting question arises concerning a woman who knows she will not fast on Yom Kippur. Is she exempt from the mitzvah of eating on Erev Yom Kippur? Reb Akiva Eiger says that regarding a regular, healthy woman, even if we say a woman is pattur from mitzvos asseh shehazman grama, since she is required to fast, she has the mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur. The question still remains, what about a woman who is not fasting?

If a woman will eat less than the shiur, then she is considered as if she is fasting and she will have the mitzvah of eating on Erev Yom Kippur. In the event that the woman is so sick that she has to eat regularly, then she would not have the mitzvah of eating on Erev Yom Kippur. Lemaaseh, she should eat because if we say that eating on Erev Yom Kippur is a de’Rabbanan, then there would not be a difference between men and women and fasters or non-fasters, therefore no matter who and no matter what the circumstance, everyone should eat on Erev Yom Kippur.

May we all be zocheh badin.