Fast of Esther - 13th of Adar
On the 13th of Adar, the
Fast of Esther is observed in commemoration of the Fast observed
by Mordechai and Esther and all Israel. On that very day, the
enemies of the Jews had planned to subjugate and destroy them.
The opposite, however, occurred and the Jews ruled over their
The practice of fasting was observed by the people of Israel
whenever they were faced by war. Thus Moshe Rabenu also 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 heavenward in prayer so
that Divine Mercy might give him the strength to prevail in
battle. This then was the purpose of the fast observed by Israel
at the time of Haman, when they gathered to defend themselves
against those who sought to destroy them. And in memory of that
Fast, a yearly Fast was fixed for generations on the same day.
We are to recall thereby that God accepts each person's prayer
and penitence in the hour of his trouble.
The acceptance of this Fast of the 13th of Adar on the part
of Israel for later generations is alluded to in the Scroll of
Esther: 'And as they accepted upon themselves and upon their
children, the matters of their fastings and their cry' (Esther
The Fast is called by the name of Esther because it was she
who first requested the observance of a fast, of 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.' (ibid. 4)
The fast which we observe is nevertheless not observed for a
three-day period, as was the case with the original Fast, nor is
it observed on the same date. Originally the Fast was observed
by Esther and the entire people of Israel on the 14th, 15th and
16th of Nisan, immediately after Mordechai was informed of
Haman's decree and of the letter of annihilation which Haman
wrote on the 13th of Nisan. Our Fast however, is observed 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.
Others hold the view, that even our Fast is also primarily a
commemoration of the original three-day Fast observed by the
Jews when the decree was announced. But since the Fast could not
be permanently fixed for later years in its proper time (because
fasting is not permitted during Nisan), the Sages therefore
fixed it for the 13th of Adar - which was also a Fast day for
the Jews, who then gathered to wage war against their enemies.
And although the Fast of Esther is therefore a memorial to the
original three days of fasting, the Rabbis were nevertheless
lenient in fixing it for only one day.
In deference to this view, there are some who fast an
additional three days; on Monday, Thursday and Monday after
Purim. Others voluntarily fast the night as well as the day on
the 13th of Adar, since the original three-day Fast was observed
night and day.
Laws of the Fast of Esther
Since the Fast of Esther is not one of the four Fast days
which are specifically mentioned in the Prophetic Writings, it
is observed with greater 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 therein.
The additional penitential prayers, and the Torah Reading, which
are prescribed for the other Fast days are also required for the
Fast of Esther.
If the 13th of Adar falls on Shabbat, the Fast is observed
the preceding Thursday which is the eleventh of Adar. Because of
Purim, the Fast is not postponed to the following day, nor is it
observed Erev Shabbat: Since it is no longer observed in any
event in its proper time, it was not fixed for Erev Shabbat, in
deference to the honor of Shabbat. (A Fast whose prescribed date
can fall on Erev Shabbat such as the 10th of Tevet, is neither
postponed nor observed earlier, but it is observed on its fixed
day). Tachanun is not said during Minchah of the Fast of Esther.