I am reprinting an older post taken from an article by a friend (and multitalented genius) Dr. Michael Segal. This is reprinted in several places, but you can visit his website at: http://segal.org/kippur/. The advice is equally helpful for Tisha B’Av….

Fasting [for Yom Kippur] (From a Medical Perspective)

Michael M. Segal MD PhD

Don’t get thirsty:

Most people think the difficulty about fasting is feeling “hungry”.  However, avoiding thirst is much more important for how you feel.  Not only do you avoid the discomfort of thirst but you are also well hydrated and swallow frequently, so your stomach does not feel as empty.

One important way to remain well hydrated is to avoid drinks or foods that cause your body to get rid of water.   Such foods and drinks include alcohol, tea, caffeinated coffee and chocolate.   Another important rule is to avoid consuming much salt.   Salt causes a person to feel thirsty despite having a “normal” amount of water, because extra water is needed for the extra salt.   For this reason you should avoid processed foods containing lots of salt such as pickles, cold cuts, or cheese.  Most tomato sauces, canned fish and smoked fish have a lot of added salt.   Since Kosher meat has a high salt content it may be best to choose a main course such as fresh fish, canned no-salt tuna fish or a de-salted meat such as boiled chicken.

By avoiding these types of foods and drinks in the several hours before a fast, you can avoid either losing water or needing extra water.   Other actions that cause the body to lose water, such as perspiring in warm clothing, should also be avoided during the fast.

Don’t start the pre-fast meal on a full stomach:

The pre-fast meal often begins at 5 PM, so a large lunch could prevent you from eating enough immediately before the fast. It is best to have a small lunch, or no lunch at all.   A large breakfast early in the day based on cereals, breads and fruits can provide the energy you need during the day, yet these high-fiber foods will be far downstream by the time of the pre-fast meal and will not keep you from eating enough food at the pre-fast meal.   A large breakfast is also helpful because it stretches the stomach.   After eating breakfast, it is best to consume beverages during the day.   This will not fill you up, since liquids are absorbed quickly, and this will ensure that you have absorbed enough fluids during the day to start the pre-fast meal being well hydrated.   Be sure to avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine.   You should also drink at least two glasses of fluids with the pre-fast meal because many foods need extra water to be digested properly.

Eat foods that are digested slowly:

Include some foods high in oils and fats in the pre-fast meal, since such foods delay emptying of the stomach and effectively prolong your meal.   However, beware of fatty meats or salted potato chips that could load you up with too much salt.   Salads and other high fiber foods that are so important in one’s normal diet should be de-emphasized for the pre-fast meal since they travel quickly through the digestive system.   Fruit, despite its high fiber content, is worthwhile since it carries a lot of water in a “time-release” form.

Don’t get a headache:

Withdrawing from caffeine produces a headache in people who drink several cups of coffee a day.   If you consume this much caffeine in coffee or other foods or drinks you should prepare yourself for the caffeine-free period by reducing or eliminating caffeine from your diet in the days before Yom Kippur.   Don’t try to get through the fast by drinking coffee right before Kol Nidre, since this will cause you to lose a lot of water.

Make the meal tasty enough so people will eat:

The pre-fast meal doesn’t have be bland.   Spices such as lemon or herbs are fine for fasting, but salt and monosodium glutamate should be reduced as much as possible.

Don’t do a complete fast if you have certain medical problems:

People with medical conditions such as diabetes should consult their doctors and rabbis before fasting.   Certain medications need to be taken during Yom Kippur, and it is important to swallow them with enough water to avoid pills getting stuck on the way to the stomach and damaging the esophagus.   Fasting by women who are pregnant or breast feeding can also be dangerous.  If a young person who has not fasted much before has unusual difficulty fasting you should discuss this with your doctor since this happens in some serious metabolic problems in which fasting can be very dangerous.

Don’t eat improperly after the fast:

Even people who have prepared well for fasting will be hungry afterwards.   Be sure not to eat food too quickly at the post-fast meal. Begin the break-fast meal with several glasses of milk or juice: these put sugar into the bloodstream and occupy space in the stomach, discouraging you from eating too rapidly.   Also be careful about eating high salt foods such as lox, since you will still be a little dehydrated and will need to drink a lot of fluids to avoid waking up extremely thirsty in the early morning hours.

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Jewish Advocate (Boston, USA) in 1989.  Copyright © 1989 – 2010 Michael M. Segal, MD, PhD.  This document may be reproduced freely on a non-profit basis, including electronically, through 2010 as long as the source at www.segal.org/kippur/ is indicated and this copyright notice is included.

May it be a meaningful fast that brings about the redemption. 




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… and it’s twins!

May 4th, 2010

No, I am NOT “ima2nine”.  I am just really proud of two friends who have given birth to their own Jewish Mommy Blogs. Welcome to the blogosphere, ladies.

I would love to think I have inspired them, but I happen to know that they have been reading blogs better and more successful than mine. I hope they take my advice and check out  Hannah Katsman’s advice to new bloggers. Yet one more reason A Mother in Israel impresses so many of us.

Please visit http://immahlady.wordpress.com/
and http://tricolon.wordpress.com/ and give them an encouraging comment!

While I am making shameless plugs, I am really amazed by Allie Brosh and her blog success. She is hysterically funny, and I just could never, ever do what she does. he blog is http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/, or Hyperbole and A Half. It isn’t Jewish, and it isn’t a mommy blog; in fact, it isn’t even appropriate some of the time.  This interview with her is even better; I learned a lot about her, her humor and how she is the kind of multimedia blogging phenom that she is. (Two million hits a MONTH!)

I owe anyone who is kind enough to visit here a more significant post.  Working on it.

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This is a posting by the very talented “A Mother in Israel”, titled; “Tips on Staying Home and Staying Sane”. I could paraphrase, but I hope you read it. It is the best advice distilled. Not only do I concur, but I really wish I had had access to such a list when I was starting out with my oldest.


Yasher Koach, Hannah Katsman.

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I recently posted on facebook the following: “Nobody warned me that being a drama queen was an inheritable trait.”

One of the children that prompted that statement (I have at least a few drama kings and queens) twisted his ankle on a jungle gym at school. It would appear that he either will never walk again, or has to be rushed to an emergency room (maybe several) and clearly cannot help himself to anything, unless he wants it, and then hopping seems to work just fine. It isn’t broken.

I thought I would make a brilliant move and borrow crutches. Everyone knows that crutches are tiring, and hurt, and really aren’t much fun. In fact, the person we borrowed them from, who had suffered a more significant injury, stopped using them after day one or two, because they were such a “pain”.

So, instead of telling said child that they are full of baloney, and to stop whining and start moving, I got the crutches. Sure that this would result in a miraculous recovery, and a return to our relative state of sanity.

I got it wrong. He LOVES the crutches… and still is maintaining that he may just never walk again. He told me excitedly how the whole school was talking to and about him. There are many people in this house who apparently have yet to grow tired of fetching everything for him.

Do I let it play itself out? Do I drag him (and that means the baby ) to the dr. so a trained professional can tell him he is fine?

For now, I plan to take the approach my dear husband and I adopt the most:

“This too shall pass….”

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I have a 19 month old that makes me want to pull my hair out – if not worse – just about every day. It really has nothing to do with his personality; I recall having similar feelings with all of my 19-month olds.  Most of them weren’t very verbal, which is frustrating for them, and for me.  In some cases, nursing has also been a factor, and it certainly is one now.

It really isn’t his fault; my current baby nursed constantly as an infant. I coped by nursing and typing (as mentioned in an earlier post). Only now every time I sit at the computer it is construed as an invitation to nurse. And I sit at the computer a great deal of the day.

The truth is that he is active, curious, and has a very reasonable expectation that someone (meaning me) will play with and entertain him all day, and take care of the house, the other kids, the bills and work – all during his hour-long nap.

I blame myself and get quite harsh with the “ima guilt” over how little that interests me. I do drop everything and play with him — so that I can jump back to “getting things done”. It doesn’t help that I know that his proper development is the thing I am supposed to be “getting done.” I wish it did.

I dealt with this issue with each of my children, and I had one simple solution that worked every time. A mother’s helper. With so many little children so close in age it was easy to justify a second set of hands to give me a break now and again. This way, with frequency depending on the child, someone would take said toddler to the park, or play trains, or spend an hour over lunch, etc… and that someone didn’t have to be me.  This was not only great for my endless pursuit of doing too many things at once, but it allowed me a pause in the constant desire to pull out my hair – or worse.

My circumstances no longer make it as easy for me to justify the help.  I am going to have to see if delaying getting help with him will result in my needing help for me. In the meantime, I am resolving to do “work” as much as possible after he goes to sleep.  All of the rest of my work, i.e. taking care of my family, he will just have to do alongside me.

I  did some digging into whether there are other moms with 19 month olds that want to pull their hair out  — or worse.  And that is how I was reminded (I really did already know) that the terrible twos are just like everything else in the development of a child; “on a scale”. Every child comes to things in their own time. Including being infuriating. They don’t wake up on their second birthday being difficult… getting that way is a process that takes time; growing out of it unfortunately is too.

I did find it redeeming to read that time-outs are not too sophisticated for a child that a) understands verbal commands and b) is clearly defying them on purpose in order to test his/her parents. This is really nice to read, since we have been doing it anyway.

One other way I cope is to blog. While perhaps not even my friends will actually read through such a long posting, I have at least had the chance to record it.

I like newborns and elementary schoolers better than “difficult toddlers”, “terrible twos”, or whatever inappropriate label we want to give them.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love my child, of course. It means I have enough honesty to recognize that some phases work better for some of us than others. And who would have thought I would enjoy my preteen and my teenager more than a cute little toddler? I think that is something to feel good and proud about.

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David Morris in Beit Shemesh, Israel, writes a blog “tzedek-tzedek” in which he discusses social problems affecting Israeli society, most particularly the religious community. His is one of the few blogs that I read. Not because it is light and happy, but because he sheds light where very, very few are willing to do so, and does it skillfully and with class.

In his posting http://tzedek-tzedek.blogspot.com/2009/11/will-motti-borgers-suicide-make-any.html, he discusses the recent suicide of a religious man who had been a victim of child sexual abuse. It is a somber wake up call.

But for me, it is also yet another disturbing reminder that I have access in person and on line to Torah classes on every imaginable subject. Yet there doesn’t seem to be ANY guidebook on how to speak to religious children about pedophilia.

Why should it be any different for someone who is Orthodox than for anyone else? Well, I would imagine it isn’t easy for any parent, and that there is a dirth of good information out there period.

But we do have some additional challenges. My children have very successfully internalized the concept of avoiding lashon hara – hateful speech. This means that they really are loathe to speak ill of someone else. EVEN WHEN IT IS TRUE. This is an obvious obstacle.

They also are taught to respect their elders, their authority figures, and adults in the community in general. So, if G-d forbid a trusted adult should do something that violates them in any way, I fear that they will believe what they are told by such a person, “respecting them” and buying the lies that pedophiles are known for telling.

So… that brings me back to my point. What works? I have tried so far to relate this subject to other examples of “mitigating circumstances” and the “exceptions to every rule” that exist in Judaism. There are times when we MUST say lashon hara. There are times when we should NOT respect an adult – no matter what. This is very confusing and difficult for my yeshiva trained children. So, I think that one part of the puzzle is to repeat myself, and to remember that this topic, as uncomfortable as it is, cannot be raised once and then forgotten.

However, I read David Morris’ blog (I hope you will too,) and I am therefore reminded to raise the topic from time to time. I have already mentioned how little this topic seems to be raised in the frum world, so I wonder how easy it is out there to forget?

I would very much welcome any suggestions from my readers on things to say – and not say – on the subject.

Something I wish none of us needed any expertise in….

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