Rashi eighth graders were asked to reflect on the following:
On Yom Kippur, Torah tells us to afflict our souls. The rabbis of the Mishnah understood this to mean that there are five prohibitions on Yom Kippur: No eating/drinking, no anointing (putting on lotion), no bathing, no wearing leather-soled shoes and no having sexual intercourse. The Torah tells us to do a lot of things that we no longer do, but many Jews still do this. Why should we (or shouldn’t we) still continue with the practice of afflicting our souls on Yom Kippur?
Here is student Ellen Prince’s response:
I think we should continue the practice of afflicting ourselves because although times have changed so drastically, we still sin, and still need to repent. When we deprive ourselves of daily pleasures and necessities, we connect with our ancestors and learn what it’s truly like to afflict ourselves. When we refrain from eating and drinking, bathing, and more, we strip away the vanities and luxuries of our fairly indulgent lives and it leaves an increased amount of purity and humbleness within ourselves. It is also easier to connect with the Israelites when they were in slavery, because they too had to go without many of these luxuries. Afflicting ourselves on Yom Kippur is necessary because for one day, we put ourselves in the shoes of our ancestors, and that in itself is very redeeming.