FAQs – Asarah B’tevet

FAQs – Asarah B’tevet

Rabbi Hayim Asher Arking

Rabbi Ezra Ghodsi


Note: The following Halachot apply only to Asarah B’tevet and other fast days, however, not to Tisha B’av or Yom Kippur.


Why do we fast on Asarah B’tevet?

On the Tenth of Tevet, Nebuchadnetsar laid siege around Yerushalayim, eventually leading to the destruction of the first Bet Hamikdash. According to some this was also the day Ezra HaSofer was niftar (according to others it was on the ninth of Tevet). 


Who is required to fast?

Both men and women, above the age of bar/bat mitzvah, are required to fast. Women who are pregnant or nursing, are exempt from fasting. If a woman is within thirty days after giving birth, even if she is not actively nursing, she also does not fast. 


I have a headache, can I break my fast?

One who is experiencing a headache should continue to fast. If one feels weak that they cannot fast, a Rabbi should be consulted to decide on a case-by-case basis. 


Can I take Tylenol or Advil?

One may swallow the pill without water, provided that it does not have a good-tasting coating. If one is unable to swallow without water, one is permitted to use a tiny bit of water to aid in swallowing the pill.


I accidentally made a beracha, should I eat a little so the beracha is not in vain?

According to many poskim (Hida, Hacham Ovadia, and others) being that reciting a beracha in vain is a uniquely severe prohibition, one should eat a tiny amount so the beracha will not be in vain. Afterward, one should continue their fast, and Anienu would still be recited in the Amidah. Others are of the opinion (Kaf Ha’Hayim, Ohr L’Tzion) that one should not eat even a small amount, rather they should recite – “ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד.”


How do I know the food I am cooking is seasoned properly?

One is allowed to taste a small amount, up to a revi’it (~75ml), on condition that it is spit out and none of it is swallowed. When tasting the food, a beracha is not recited. Even on a non-fast day, if one is tasting food solely to see if it is seasoned properly, a beracha is not recited.


Can I chew gum?

Chewing gum on a fast day is not permitted. Although the gum itself is not swallowed, the flavoring and sweetness are.


Can I brush my teeth or use mouthwash?

One who is accustomed to brushing or using mouthwash every morning is permitted to do so, provided that the amount of water put in their mouth at one time is less than a revi’it (~75ml). One should keep their head facing down to ensure no water is swallowed. 


May one use Listerine strips on a fast day?

It would depend on how it is being used. Some view it as an item that does not taste good and is used solely to get rid of bad breath. It would therefore be permitted if left to dissolve completely in the mouth and not swallowed. Others view the strips as a good-tasting item and would be prohibited on a fast day, as it is no different from mint chewing gum. 


May one who is not fasting get an Aliyah?

One who is not fasting may not get an Aliyah on a fast day. If the fast is on a Monday or Thursday then he may get an Aliyah only in the morning.


Why do we wear tallit and tefillin by mincha?

Amongst the reasons given why our community adopted the custom to place Tefillin by Minha, is in order to recite an extra two berachot. David HaMelech instituted that one should recite one hundred berachot every day. On a regular weekday, one will reach the required amount by praying all the tefillot and reciting berachot before and after eating. However, on a ta’anit, where one only eats at night and not during the day, we put on tallit and tefillin to gain the extra berachot.


Do we wear tefillin by Minha on Erev Shabbat?

Some say we should refrain from putting on tefillin based on the teaching of the later kabbalists that one should not wear tefillin on Friday after hatsot. However, Hacham Baruch and others were of the opinion, that being that there is a long-standing custom to always wear tefillin by Minha on fast days, tefillin should be worn like on every ta’anit


What time does the fast end?

The fast ends at Tzet Hakochavim (three stars), however, the exact time is subject to varying opinions and customs. When the fast overlaps with the start of Shabbat many are more lenient regarding the time, and one should follow the custom of their shul and rabbi.

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