Question: Is A Mitzvah to Eat basically for people with eating disorders? Why else would someone need to eat on a fast day?

Answer: Having an eating disorder is just one of many reasons why someone might need to eat on a fast day or relate to mitzvot differently. These reasons include, but are not limited to, a variety of physical and mental health conditions, trauma, and disabilities.

Whatever your reason for needing to relate to mitzvot differently, you are part of our community. We see you, we support you, and we welcome you as part of the communal space we are building and growing together.

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Answer: We would be happy to explain the general concept. We are choosing not to name specific conditions however, because there are many circumstances in which someone would be required to eat chametz. We can't list them all, and we don't want to imply that only the ones listed are valid.

It's important to know that many (but not all) people have enough flexibility and choices around eating that they can eliminate chametz for Pesach, and still get enough nourishment. Many Ashkenazi Jews are able to get enough nourishment when eliminating both chametz and kitniyot, while others may either choose to, or be required to, eat kitniyot in order to be fully nourished.

Other people may have chronic conditions or disabilities where they have very little or no flexibility around food. In fact, they may require very specific foods or meal replacements year round. If these foods contain chametz and they are required in order to survive, they are not only allowed to be eaten, but there is actually a mitzvah to eat them.

Others may have acutely dangerous conditions but more flexibility with foods, however, if there is even the possibility that changing their foods for Pesach would be detrimental, we do not risk endangering them.

We would like to close by thanking the people who asked us this question. We are committed to raising awareness and providing education around issues of health and mitzvot centered on food and eating. Your questions help guide us in this process.

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Updated: Mar 3

Q: Why are you talking about health and fasting all year round? We usually reserve these topics for right before Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av.

A: We saw the need for change. The current system wasn't working. Some people had isolating experiences eating on fast days, where they felt disconnected from their communities. Others may have put themselves in danger by fasting. For some of us, fast days were emotionally painful, and sometimes dangerous, experiences.

Upon reflection, we identified so many areas for change that we decided to do this work year round. In doing so, we could teach sources about pikuach nefesh (saving a life), address harmful messaging, write articles and guides for those eating on fast days, connect with each other, and build a supportive community.

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