A Taste of Paradise, Literally
“Whoever eats and drinks on the 9th of Tishrei (day before Yom Kippur) it is as if he has fasted on the 9th and the 10th” (The 10th of Tishrei is Yom Kippur)
Why do the Sages tell us that eating on the day before Yom Kippur is transformed as if someone has fasted for two days?
The deepest truth is that Yom Kippur is a day of exceptional joy. It is hard for us to feel this because we are limited by our physical bodies and the joy is lost when we abstain from eating, drinking, intimacy, washing, wearing leather shoes and anointing with oils and creams. The joy is lost because the soul is along for the ride with the physical, finite body. It is hard for the body to delight when it is denied its pleasures.
We should all live to 120, but the day we die is the day that the soul is detached from the body. The bad news is that the body will die; the good news is that the soul will live forever. In the spiritual world, there is no eating, drinking, intimacy etc. There are no physical pleasures. Of course this does not mean that there is no pleasure, quite the contrary.
In the world of souls there is a higher level of joy and contentment than can ever be achieved in the physical world. It is a world of truth, it is a world of complete connection to Hashem that allows the soul to be in a state of bliss that is far more pleasurable than any counterpart in the physical world. As souls with physical bodies, it is hard to understand this while we are in this physical world.
When we abstain from physical pleasures on Yom Kippur, it gives us a taste of the world to come. It gives us a taste of paradise. It is a world with no competition, no jealousies, no anger, no denial of Hashem—a world of peace and tranquility.
Yom Kippur gives us a taste of being removed from the physical world and to experience what a world of the spirit is like. Yom Kippur, like the world to come, is a world of utter bliss as we are enveloped and hugged by warmth and radiance of Divine love.
By eating and rejoicing on the 9th of Tishrei (the day before Yom Kippur) we can draw from the holy light of the world to come as expressed by the spiritual day of Yom Kippur. We draw the eternal joy and bliss of Yom Kippur and celebrate the only way we know how in the physical world—eating and drinking.
The final meal before the fast of Tisha B’Av is intended to be sad as we are about to enter the day of mourning for the Temple and Jewish tragedies. The last meal before Yom Kippur is the complete opposite. It is not meant to be a somber meal. We should sing and rejoice knowing that we are about to enter the day that is a true taste of paradise.