The Fast of Esther (Ta’anit Esther)
Ta’anit Esther – The Fast of Esther
A fast day is observed in commemoration of the 3 days of fasting by Esther, Mordechai and the entire Jewish community before Esther approached Achashverosh.
The fast begins at the break of dawn and ends after the Megillah (Book of Esther) is read that night.
If one is feeling weak, one may break the fast after nightfall, prior to Megillah reading.
Some people will get up before dawn and have an early morning breakfast (but this is permitted only if a decision to do so is verbally expressed the night before).
Do’s and Don’ts
- During the duration of the fast, eating and drinking are prohibited.
- Unlike Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av (The Day of Atonement and the Ninth of Av), bathing, anointing and wearing leather are permitted.
- Pregnant and nursing women, and others with health restrictions are exempt from fasting (please consult your rabbi). Children under the age of bar/bat mitzvah (13 for boys, 12 for girls) are not required to fast.
- Special prayers are added to the synagogue services:
- Slichot (Penitential Prayers) and Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King) are recited.
- At the afternoon service, Exodus 32:11, containing the 13 attributes of G-d’s mercy, is read from the Torah.
- The Aneinu prayer asking for special forgiveness is added to the morning and afternoon services by the prayer leader. An individual who is fasting includes Aneinu in the blessing of Sh’ma Koleinu when saying Mincha.
If the Fast of Esther falls on Shabbat, the fast is observed on the Thursday before, as it is forbidden to fast on Shabbat (with the exception of Yom Kippur).