Taanit Esther

On the 13th of Adar, the Fast of Esther is observed in memory of the Fast observed by Mordechai and Esther and all Jews during the Purim era.

On that very day, the enemies of the Jews had planned to destroy them. Instigated by Haman’s evil plot. The opposite thankfully occurred and the Jews ruled over their enemies.

Fasting was a common theme observed by the people of Israel whenever they were faced by war. We learned in Parshat Beshalach that Moshe fasted when he came to wage war against Amalek. The aim of the fast was to affirm that a man does not prevail by physical or military strength, but only by lifting his eyes towards Hashem in prayer so that Hashem could bestow his Mercy and give him the strength to prevail in battle. This then was the purpose of the fast kept by Israel at the time of Haman, when they gathered to defend themselves in unity against those who sought to destroy them. And in commemoration of that Fast, a yearly Fast was fixed for generations on the same day. This fast day is named ‘Taanit Esther.’

The Fast is called by the name of Esther because it was she who first requested the observance of a fast, when she urged to Mordechai: 'Go and gather all the Jews who are found in Shushan and fast over me, and do not eat and do not drink three days, night and day; and I and my maidens will also fast thus. (Featured in the Megillah).

The fast which we observe is not observed for a three-day period, as was the case with the original Fast, nor is it observed on the same date. Initially the Fast was observed by Esther and the entire people of Israel on the 14th, 15th and 16th of Nisan, immediately after Mordechai was told of Haman's decree and of the letter of annihilation which Haman wrote on the 13th of Nisan. Our Fast however, is kept usually on the 13th of Adar, in memory of the Fast observed by Israel on the day of their mobilization for war against the enemies. The Fast is nevertheless called by the name of Esther since it was she who first proposed its observance.

Since the Fast of Esther is not one of the four Fast days which are specifically mentioned in the Tanach, it is observed with more leniency than the other Fast days. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, as well as others of generally weak health, (who would suffer by fasting) do not fast this one specifically. The additional penitential prayers, and the Torah Reading, which are prescribed for the other Fast days are also required for the Fast of Esther. This Torah reading comes from the book of Shemot, Parshat Ki Tisa.

On the 13th of Adar during Minchah, it is customary to give three halves of the coin which is the basis of the local currency. The money is given to the poor to do with it as they wish. This contribution is made in memory of the half-shekel given by Israel when the Beit Hamikdash still stood; and whose forthcoming collection was announced on Rosh Chodesh Adar.

This memorial act is performed before the Reading of the Megilah, because all Israel gathers for the Megilah Reading in the synagogues.

This is only a brief synopsis on this fast, if you want to find out more, please do more research. This Dvar Torah is dedicated to Ahuva Bat Chiria Chaya, who currently has health problems, please everyone pray for her to make a full and healthy recovery. Also please pray for Netanel Ben Tzipporah to make a recovery on his broken leg.

Have a meaningful fast, Michael Zaroovabeli.