Holiday

The Fast of Esther

Ta’anit Esther
  • Days of Mourning
The Fast of Esther

The Fast of Esther

תענית אסתר

Ta-ah-neet Es-tehr

“The Fast of Esther”

What is The Fast of Esther

The Fast of Esther commemorates the fasting of the Jewish people in response to Haman’s evil decree to murder all of the Jews of the Persian Empire.

When is The Fast of Esther

Adar 13

Month

Adar

Source and Origin of The Fast of Esther

The Fast of Esther is a tradition rooted in custom. Although not mentioned in the Talmud, references to this fast are found in the Midrash and later writings from the era of the Geonim (589-1038).

The origin of this custom lies in the biblical narrative where Queen Esther, facing a perilous situation, requested Mordechai to organize a three-day fast and prayer period for the Jewish community. This fast preceded her courageous approach to King Ahasuerus, seeking his intervention to spare the lives of her people. Another instance of fasting is associated with the 13th of Adar, the day before the Jews engaged in a decisive battle against enemies who had been granted permission to harm them on the 14th of the same month. This victorious battle is commemorated on the holiday of Purim.

Esther’s directive to Mordechai, as recorded in Esther 4:16, underscores the urgency and gravity of the situation, where she implores the Jewish community in Shushan to fast for her for three days and nights. This period of fasting, abstaining from both food and drink, mirrored Esther’s own commitment as she prepared to approach the king without a formal invitation, risking her life with the words, “if I perish, I perish.”

Customs of The Fast of Esther

  • Fasting – Similar to the other minor fast days, eating and drinking is prohibited from dawn until nightfall on the 13th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. 
  • Leap Years – During leap years, when there are two months of Adar, the fast is specifically observed during the second Adar. If the designated date for the Fast of Esther coincides with Shabbat (Saturday), the fast is rescheduled to the preceding Thursday.
  • Leniency – Given that the Fast of Esther is not among the four public fasts established by the Prophets, its observance is characterized by more lenient rules. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and individuals who are physically weak are exempt from the obligation to observe this fast.
  • Extra LiturgySelichot, liturgical prayers, are added into the morning service (Shacharit).

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