Brooklyn, NY – Fasting on Yom Kippur can be difficult for even the healthiest person. But for the elderly, infirm, pregnant, or those dependent upon medication, getting through the holiest day of the Jewish year without food and water can be a nightmarish ordeal.
Ten years ago, Yitzchok Fleischer, the founder and executive director of the Bikur Cholim D’Bobov, sought to change all that according to a report in the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/SPjGj8). Inspired by an ill friend who told Mr. Fleischer he needed intravenous feeding in order to complete the fast, Mr. Fleischer sprang into action.
With the assistance of the nearby Maimonides Medical Center, Mr. Fleischer has established “virtual clinics” in the basement of the Bobov shul and at other sites which operate throughout Yom Kippur. Twenty hospital cots are set up at the clinics to accommodate worshippers. Medical technicians supervise participants who receive nutrients via an IV drip for about a half hour each before returning to prayers. All those who receive IV nutrients must verbally affirm that both their rabbi and doctor approved the treatments.
Some 200 people took advantage of Mr. Fleischer’s service last year.
Mr. Fleischer said he consulted with three “big rabbis” who certified his program as halachically permissible. He is careful to point out that this practice is not a religious loophole. “Everyone is a difficult case. It’s not a loophole. It’s not considered eating if it goes through a vein,” he said. “You’re not supposed to take anything though the mouth or stomach. Anything. Even if you’re allowed to, nobody wants to eat. It’s very hard for a person who has always fasted to face the reality of a situation where they have to eat,” he continued. “This way they still feel they fasted and halachically, they didn’t eat. The mouth is still dry.”
Non-Jewish pediatricians are also on call during Yom Kippur and other holidays to administer aid to sick Jewish kids thanks to Mr. Fleischer’s efforts. “Life is not just eating, davening, and sleeping,” Mr. Fleischer remarked. “You’ve got to do something for other people.”