“Do you think the ninth of Av and the Day of Atonement, which are 25-hour fasts, can count more somehow?”
Greenwich, CT, July 6 – A Jewish spiritual authority has weighed in on the physiological effects of the various fast days scattered throughout the Hebrew calendar, and has ruled that observance of any of those fasts constitutes a bona fide diet.
Rabbi Adi Pose of Congregation Anshei Mishkal in this seaside town responded to a congregant’s inquiry by asserting that it is truthful to claim that one is on a diet if the only reason for abstaining from food is the observance of the fast. Members of the synagogue could be observed discussing the ruling throughout the day Wednesday.
In a written essay in response to a question involving Jewish law, known as a Teshuva, or answer, Rabbi Pose explained that the effect of most diets is identical to that of fasting for 10-25 hours, depending on the fast day in question. “The vast majority of diet regimens result in the dieter feeling hungry and irritable, and even if weight loss occurs, no net weight loss over time,” he wrote. “Therefore the distinction between even a short fast, such as the tenth of Tevet, and a three-week program of diet and exercise, is semantic at most. It is therefore within halachically acceptable limits to describe abstaining from food during daylight hours a ‘diet.'” The tenth of Tevet is the shortest Jewish fast, as it is observed only during daylight hours, and occurs during the winter when daytime is short.
Congregants expressed a mix of relief and resolve. “This means I can get my mother-in-law off my back,” said Leah Schmeltzer-Gross. “She’s constantly asking me if I’m doing anything to get back in shape after having four of her grandchildren. Now I can say I’m on a diet and not worry about it being some little white lie.”
“I’m happy to hear this,” said Ofer Waitt. “It’s exactly what I need to get started on my diet. I’m going to have to ask Rabbi Pose, though, about the longer fasts. Do you think the ninth of Av and the Day of Atonement, which are 25-hour fasts, can count more somehow? Like, if my doctor says I need to diet, I know I can say I’m already dieting, because I fasted from dawn to nightfall on the seventeenth of Tammuz, but how long does that apply? If it’s been a couple of months since the last fast, such as the few months after the Fast of Esther until Tammuz, can I still honestly answer the same way? If not, does a 25-hour fast last twice as long? In other words, I need to know if the Yom Kippur fast counts as a diet all the way through to the tenth of Tevet or not.”
“Those Hanukkah donuts need to know,” he added.