Williamsburg, NY – Jews Rushing to Get Caffeine Suppositories for Yom Kipper


    Bum's rush: Many religious Jews in Williamsburg insert caffeine suppositories to skirt Yom Kippur restrictions on the intake of food. Here, Baruch Herzfeld, a coffee lover and religious Jew, shows off his supply. Photo: Andy CampbellWilliamsburg, NY – Jews throughout Williamsburg snapped up caffeine suppositories today, hours before the start of the Yom Kippur fast that would deprive them of the jolt — and hunger suppression — that coffee typically provides.

    The day-long fast is the centerpiece of the holiest day on the Jewish calendar — but some religious Jews see a Talmudic loophole that allows them to ingest their daily dose of caffeine, albeit through a different orafice.

    “It helps — you know, it’s hard to concentrate when you’re fasting and also addicted to caffeine,” said Baruch Herzfeld, an Orthodox Jew who owns a bike store in Williamsburg. “Some take it before sundown, but most take it throughout their fasting. These guys love a good loophole.”

    These huge, rectally inserted pills are popular. Pharmacists at Rafieh — one of many distributors in south Williamsburg on Lee Avenue — sold nearly 150 suppositories today.

    “We have caffeine suppositories!” the store’s handwritten sign heralded. “Be ready!”

    But is it kosher?

    There’s some controversy over whether Jews observing the Biblical fast should be taking an easy out (or, more accurately, in).

    Some Jewish leaders said that consuming anything — through the body’s traditional entrance or its exit — is against the spirit of the ritualistic fast.

    “We’re supposed to do it the old fashioned way — I wouldn’t advise [suppositories],” said Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, a Hasidic leader. “We wanna keep Jews in the synagogue and not in the bathroom.”

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    1. Seriously.. What has become of this world? Caffeine suppositories? My gosh! One day without coffee. Its yom kippur for heavens sake!!! So u don’t feel well over the fast? Join the club. Who does??? It is ridiculous what they will think of next.

    2. These are nothing new. I bought them in a Boro Park pharmacy over 20 years ago. They do help, but recently I’ve started cutting back on caffine a at least a week before a tainis. I never heard that there were any halachic issues involved.

    3. That is really too funny to think someone would do somthing like that. But I say its totally against halacha. Goodluck. Dont pull your pants down too much in the day of atonement!

    4. I think its all sociological issues.. I will give for anybody in a fast day a good hot coffee with milk and sugar but I will put decaf. coffee, u will see, they will feel so fine…

    5. I dropped caffiene a few days before Yom Kippur. I can’t see how this could be permitted on Yom Kippur as it is not a machel briyim taken in this manner. As a medicine it would be ossur dirabonon for shaboss and Yom Kippur unless you were nafal limishkov (typically febrile).Taking it before the fast would be allowed, albeit frowned upon as not in the spirit of the taanis, but it would not help you the next morning. I also imagine that It should be disolved before you walk out of shul to avoid carrying issues.

    6. I take them too. Theyre a LIFESAVER. when youre home with little children the fast can be exhausting. I take one in the morning as soon as I get up and my fast day is a dream. yes, I’d rather daven all tefillos than lay on the couch with my eyes closed and feeling like I’m collapsing.

    7. First, yes, it is an odd practice. And yes, it helps tremendously. There’s no mitzvah make something harder and more difficult that it needs to be, provided of course it is in accordance with halacha. Weinstein’s unintelligble comment notwithstanding, I have used them for years with the approval of some extremely choshav poskim, although “curious” raises some interesting concerns, particularly carrying. If carrying is indeed a concern, however, I wonder how it is distinguished from eating at a kiddush on shabbos and walking home since one’s food has not yet digested.

      Okay, now, a relevant joke. Yanki walks into a pharmacy Erev Yom Kippur and orders 900 caffeine suppositories. The pharmacists asks why he needs 900, to which Yanki replies, “I’m making a Kiddush tomorrow.”

    8. People who are regular caffeine users get terrible headaches when they don’t get their fix while they’re fasting. I’m not a major user (maybe 24 oz. of coffee a day), but I find that if I gradually reduce my coffee consumption to zero over the 3-4 days before a 25-hour fast, I don’t get a headache. I don’t know if this would work for hardcore caffeine fiends (I knew a doctor who told me he had 25 cups a day!)

    9. Buy some decaffeinated coffee. Starting a few days before the taanis, gradually mix in a small part of the decaff with your coffee each day, until you are almost caffeine free the day before the fast. If you do this gradually you will not feel any ill effects. If you are only on 2-3 cups a day this should not take more than 2 days. For more it will take a bit longer, but I am sure it can be done within a week. Definitely worth doing.

    10. Caffeine is also a very potent diuretic. It makes you lose bodily fluids. One of the worst things anyone can do on a fast day is take medications that make them lose a lot of fluid. Better to have a bit of a headache then have low fluid volume.

    11. I unfortunately got to my pharmacy too late – they were completely sold out by the time I got there.

      I asked how this was possible, and they said a customer had come in earlier and bought all they had. When they suggested to him that taking more than one or two could be dangerous, he said that they were not all for him, but that he needed them because he was making a kiddush in shul Yom Kippur.

    12. Poster # 24 (What?); See poster # 19; To all posters who advocate and / or use the Caffeine suppositories on Yom Kippur. First of all, it’s a disgusting way of taking a non-essential supplement. Secondly. I’m a moderate+ coffeee consumer. (8-10 cups daily). On Yom Kippur (a/o to a regular day), I feel no special discomfort for not ingesting my daily dose of coffee. Thirdly. No matter what Rav or Dayan gives permission to use Caffeine Suppositories on Y.K., it’s still a loophole and you’re circumventing the spirit of the day. If one is medically at risk, they are allowed to consume regular food according to Halachah.

    13. why don’t they make caffeine powder that can easily be insufflated nasally? much less disgusting!
      actually it would be easy, all you would have to do is make lots of strong coffee, dry it, put a strong acid or base into it, dissolve everything other than the caffeine alkaloid, neutralize it (although you would want it to remain slightly acidic so as to keep it in its salt form and not in a freebase form), and you would have a white powder, that is pure caffeine which can be snorted on Yom Kippur

    14. I stopped drinking coffee last year, and fasting is now easy as nothing. I enjoy being coffee free, I am no longer a slave to the coffee, I don’t need to run looking for coffees and don’t need to consume the pareve milk for shabbos and yom tov afternoons.

    15. I recommend “kali tzom”.. it has really helped and b”H, I was able to concentrate and daven.. it has hechsher, imported from Israel.. I am not sure if it helps with caffeine withdrawal symptoms, but is worth a try.

    16. Poster # 26 (Hanavon) Because it might be mistaken for another white powder of a less benign reputation. We (the Jewish people) need nothing more than looking and acting like Cocaine or Heroin addicts on Yom kippur. If things deteriorate any further, we will one day be faced with the possibility of ingesting Chometz on Pesach intravenously or through other ports of entry. Then someone will come up with a chemical way of ingesting dried, pulverized pork. All with the permission of Rabbis and Dayanim.

    17. To all those armchair poskim : It’s a good thing you have vozisneias -how else could the world know all your pisokim. It’s 100% mutter. Anybody who would take such a thing would only do this if they didn’t feel too well. This in halacha is called Noful l’mischuv. (You don’t need to have a fever.) It’s not a problem of Inuy -again people taking these things need it for their health or to prevent sickness. They don’t feel they can the the marathon afterwards. What happened to Koach d’heter adif?

      • Caffeine headaches hurt, but as I said they can be avoided and it is not so poshut that it is nafal limishkov. I went to work with one on a few occasions. Do not look for heterim on YK. This problem is easily avoided as I wrote previously. If you will be machmir one day a year, let it be YK.

    18. Bigwheel -It’s good you’re a big wheel, not a big poisek. “If one is medically at risk, they are allowed to consume regular food according to Halachah.” You’re only allowed to eat if it’s a sakanah nefoshos, not if you’re Noful l’mischuv!

    19. I’m not against prevention, but if you do end up getting a caffeine withdrawl -don’t belittle people’s withdrawl just because yours’ is mild. That’s like saying you aren’t a noful l’mischuv if you have 101 fever because 101 never bothers me. But a lot of people will be bothered with a 101 fever.


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