Ask The Rabbi

Life In The Fast Vein

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Fasting, Using Intravenous

Ivy Epstein wrote:

If someone is sick and knows that he is going to have to eat on Yom Kipper, why not do so through intravenous? It's my understanding that since intravenous is not the normal way of eating, it's not technically a violation of the requirement to fast. If you tell me that intravenous is too big a bother or expense, isn't it true that a person must go to all lengths and expense not to transgress a negative commandment? So why don't sick people check in to a hospital before Yom Kippur and 'eat' intravenously?


Dear Ivy Epstein,

The obligation to fast applies only on Yom Kippur itself. Before Yom Kippur, however, there's no obligation, per se, to prepare for the fast. Hence, there's no obligation to hook up to intravenous in order to fast. Once Yom Kippur arrives, it's forbidden to hook up to intravenous, since blood will spill.

And since there's no obligation to 'eat' intravenously, it might actually be forbidden to do so, for a few reasons. For one, inserting a needle is a transgression of the prohibition against unnecessarily wounding oneself. And who knows, intravenous may involve certain health risks, all of which may not be known at present. In short, it should not be done.

Once, a man on intravenous had an overwhelming desire for a glass of tea, and he finally convinced the doctor to administer it to him intravenously. When the tea began flowing, however, the man winced.

"What's the matter," asked the doctor. "Too hot?"

"No, too sweet."

Sources
  • Iggrot Moshe Orach Chaim 3:90

 
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