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Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon                                                                     Ask
       SHOUOLNDYTOHME EKLIDPEPRULRY?FAST                                                 Rabbi

T his is literally an old question.         were dehydrated when they suffered a         Sofer) and if necessary, every four or
          After all, our elders have        first stroke. Other studies show that after  every two minutes.
          fasted for generations. But this  three days of minimal drinking, the old
question has been given new meaning in      person needs two weeks for his or her        Another option is a bitter drink, because
recent times.                               body to return to normal. In addition,       a drink containing something bitter is
In Psalms (90:10) it says: “The days        our elders may not always be able to         even permitted for a sick person not in
of our years are 70 years and if with       drink the necessary amount before a fast.    danger (see Rambam, Yesodei HaTorah
strength 80 years.”                         What can we do?                              5:8).
Over the centuries, human life              When over-80s are weak, one must
expectancy has risen considerably, and      instruct them to drink, at least in shiurim  What is a bitter drink?
in many countries today, the average is     (see below). Someone over 80 who feels       The Rambam says it shouldn’t have a
80 or more, as it is in Israel.             strong and well, and wants to fast, can do   pleasant taste. It needn’t be unbearable
Is age biological or physiological?         so. From 90 upwards, a person should         (Rav Elyashiv) but something repulsive
Physiological age can be very different     drink, at least in shiurim. Nevertheless,    that a normal person would not drink
from biological age. We find this in        if someone over 90 feels good, does          if he wasn’t sick. You can add salt, a
Judaism too. The Levites had to stop        regular exercise and wants to fast, they     few chamomile teabags or drops of
work in the Temple at age 50. Yet           certainly can, but should break the fast     something bitter.
sometimes they could ‘retire’ later, if     at the first sign of any nausea, dizziness,
they could still sing properly (see Hullin  vomiting or the slightest weakness.          In this case, one can drink even more
24a, and Rashi there.) And the Gemara       What is drinking in shiurim?                 than melo lugmav, but if there is no
talks about 80-year-old Rabbi Hanina        A shiur is “melo lugmav,” literally the      special need to do so, one should drink
who would “stand on one leg and put his     fill of one’s cheeks, which of course        this in shiurim too.
shoes on.”                                  is different for everyone. It’s easy to
Nevertheless, there are often added         measure. Fill the mouth with water           Of course, all the above relates to a
risks after 85, even for a person who is    and spit it out into a disposable cup.       person who is generally healthy. Once
generally healthy. Studies have shown       Divide that amount into two using            there are medical conditions involved,
that 60% of patients around that age        another cup. The amount in each of the       each case should be treated on its own
                                            cups is now melo lugmav. Before Yom          merits, and in many cases the person
                                            Kippur you mark that amount on a cup         should drink as normal.
                                            and only drink that amount each time
                                            (see Nishmat Avraham 1, 5212:9). Or          When fasting could endanger life, do
                                            measure out the majority of a revi’it,       not fast and remember that the mitzvah
                                            which is less than 44ml, and preferably      of “And you shall live by them” is greater
                                            less than 38ml (there are shot glasses       and more important than the fast. In this
                                            and even plastic bags that contain the       case, when a person has to drink, he is
                                            required amount nowadays, which you          fulfilling a big mitzvah by drinking!
                                            can even discretely drink from in shul).
                                                                                         (Written with Dr. Ephraim Rimon, Geriatrics
                                            This amount (melo lugmav) can be             and Gastro Specialist.)
                                            drunk every nine minutes (Mishna
                                            Berura 5218:21 according to the Chatam       Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon is Head of
                                                                                         Mizrachi's Shalhevet Educational
                                                                                         Advisory Board, Chairman of the
                                                                                         Halacha Education Center and Rabbi of
                                                                                         Machon Lev

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