Yom Kippur is approaching and we are preparing for this wonderous day through a process of spiritual awareness and cleansing. On Yom Kippur itself our cleansing of the spirit extends even to the physical level, where we fast and deny ourselves the most mundane and basic needs of our material existense. Not-withstanding our spiritual needs, I offer a few tips to prepare for Yom Kippur on a purely physical level:
Drink at least two liters (eight cups) of water on the days leading up to the fast. Hunger is often confused with thirst and it is easy to dehydrate on a fast. Making sure that we drink enough on the days before the fast can help minimize both our hunger and our thirst on the actual fast day.
Eat whole grains before the fast. Whole grains provide us with more energy over longer periods of time.
Avoid sugar and fruits. Sugar highs and lows can cause headaches and the body also requires extra fluid to remove the sugar from the system.
Eat a lot of vegetables. Vegetables are a great source of both energy and fluid.
Fasting is a way of cleansing, both physically and spiritually. While fasting, we rise above the physical needs of this world and we are able to connect to G-d on a more spiritual level. Our bodies are given a much deserved rest, and like our souls, they devote themselves to releasing stored toxins. The purpose of the fast is renewal, where we start of the new year with a clean slate, or old misdeeds having been forgiven. As with our souls that have been cleansed to a point where small transgressions cause us regret, likewise, eating badly or overeating after a fast can make us sick.
The best way to break a fast is to slowly rehydrate the body while allowing the digestive channels to open. One of the best ways to do this is with a hot drink that requires small sips. Dandelion tea or chamomile tea, (sweetened with stevia or raw honey) is a great way to help cleanse the body of stored toxins.
While bagels, lox, and cream cheese are pretty much standard after the fast, try instead to open up the meal with a light vegetable soup. A great soup to eat after fasting is miso soup. This is not only because Chinese tradition holds that miso promotes long life and good health, but also because miso is a live food that contains lactobacillus, (the same as in yogurt) which helps in the digestion and assimilation of food. Another bonus to eating miso soup after the fast is that on the purely practical level, it is quick. Prepare the vegetables before the fast and then just add the boiling water and miso after the fast is over. The soup requires only two minutes of cooking time so it will be ready to serve by the time the men come home from shul.
Note: The soup calls for kombu. Kombu is a seaweed, that like all seaweeds, is high in vitamins and minerals. Kombu is not an essential ingredient and the soup is tasty (some might say even more so) without it. Look for miso and kombu either in health food stores or in the health food sections of your local market.
Ingredients:1 tsp sesame oil
1 carrot, diced
1 leek, diced
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 small piece of kombu (optional)
4 cups water or dashi (Japanese soup stock)
2-3 tbsp miso paste
2 scallions, sliced on angle, for garnish
umeboshi & soy sauce, to taste
Saute the vegetable, add the water/stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for two minutes. Remove from the flame, cream the miso in a little bit of the broth and return to the soup. Use the soy sauce to adjust the flavor, garnish with scallions and serve.