The Mitzvah of Eating on Erev Yom Kippur
The Talmud gives the impression that eating on Erev Yom Kippur (EYK) is a biblical obligation (see Kessef Misheh, Nedarim 3:9, and Magen Avraham, O.C. 570). Achronim argue over whether this obligation would supercede the mitzvah to add on to Yom Kippur, in the event of a conflict (see Resp. K’tav Sofer, O.C. 114, and Resp. Machzeh Avraham, I, O.C., 131.). [Sefarim also discuss the question of fulfilling this obligation through forbidden foods; see Resp Marpei L’Nefesh IV, 47; Resp. Beit Sh’arim O.C. 291; the journal Barka’ai, VI, p. 83; Resp. Mishneh Sakhir, I, 16, and II, 161; Resp. Giva’at HaL’vonah O.C. 34; Resp. Kinyan Torah B’Halakhah VI, 35.]
Different theories exist as to the reason for the obligation. One possibility is that this would eb in preparation for the fast, to stave off extreme and unbearable hunger (see Rashi, Yoma 81b; Rosh, Yoma 8:22; Sha’arei Teshuvah 4:10). [A variant on this possibility also exists: Some suggest that the intent is actually to make the fast harder, per Ta’anit 27b, which implies hunger is harder to bear when preceded by greater than usual indulgence; see Torah Temimah, Vayikra 27:93).] Alternatively, this obligation may be a way of expressing the simchat Yom Tov in the way impossible on Yom Kippur itself (See Ritva, Rosh HaShanah 9, citing Rabbeinu Yonah; Sha’arei Teshuvah 4:8, 9). [See Responsa Lev Avraham, 67, who displays different source possibilities for the two reasons. Several other reasons are suggested in later sources. See the journal Ohr Torah (of Yeshivat Kisei Rachamim XXII, 31); and Resp. Beit Avi (II, 61).]
R. Akiva Eiger (Resp. 16) considers the question of an ill woman, who will not be fasting on Yom Kippur, and her obligation in the mitzvah of eating on EYK. He suggests that the issue would depend on the two primary reasons mentioned above. If the obligation is an independent one, a positive reflection of simchat Yom Tov, it would seem to be a mitzvat aseh sh’haz’man gramma, and women would be exempt (see also Rashshash, Sukkah 28a; Resp. K’tav Sofer, O.C. 112; Resp. Chesed L’Avraham, II, O.C. 65; Resp. Torah L’Shmah, 162; Resp. Siach Yitzchak, 299; Resp. Riv’vot Ephraim II, 164:8, and many others). If it is preparation for the fast, though, it would be logical to assume that all who are obligated in fasting are obligated in this preparation, women included. However, in this case, the woman was ill, and would not be fasting. A case could be made that such an individual would be exempt (see also Resp. K’tav Sofer, ibid; S’dei Chemed, ma’arekhet Yom HaKippurim, 1; Mikra’ei Kodesh, Yamim Noraim 37). Thus, the woman discussed in this responsum might be exempt in any event, as both reasons would exempt her, from different angles.
Some issues affected by the dominant understanding include the amount and type of food that must be eaten (see Minchat Chinukh, 313; Moadim U’Z’manim, I, 53; Resp. Pri Malkah, 34; and Resp. L’Horot Natan, 9, kuntres v’chai bahem, 6:13; and Resp. Minchat Aharon, III, 655; and Resp. Siach Yitzchak, 291; Gilyonei HaShas, Yerushalmi Z’raim, III, 51; Yeshuot Ya’akov, O.C. 608:2)); if the food must be consumed in a normal manner (see Birkhat Shimon al haTorah; Resp. Emek Teshuvah, III, 47; Resp. Mishneh Sakhir, II, 161; Resp. Shraga HaMeir, IV, 2:5.); the reason no b’rakhah is recited on this mitzvah (see Ha’amek She’alah 167; Resp. Minchat Aharon IV, 559); Resp. Ginzei Yosef, 38:1; Resp. Arugat HaBosem, 207; Resp. Beit Sh’arim, 381; Marpei L’Nefesh, IV, 47; Resp. Shem MiShimon, I, Y.D. 28; Resp. Divrei Yisrael, I, 173; if the nighttime is included (see Biur HaGra; B’er Tzvi, 24; Natan Piryo, Nedarim, p. 63; Yitzchak Yikarei, 24.); if children must be trained in this obligation (see Chelkat Yosef, 42:2); if the obligation applies to the other afflictions of Yom Kippur (see Resp. Emek Teshuvah, III, 47; Resp. Beit Avi, II, O.C., 61; and Resp. Riv’vot Ephraim, III, 403).