FAQs – Taanit Esther 5784

FAQs – Taanit Esther 5784

Written by:

Rabbi Hayim Asher Arking

Rabbi Ezra Ghodsi

Note: The following halachot apply only to Taanit Esther and other fast days, however, not to Tisha B’av or Yom Kippur.

Why do we fast on Taanit Esther?

On the 13th day of Adar, the Jews gathered to fight and protect themselves from their enemies who wanted to kill them. The Midrash relates that during the war with Amalek after leaving Mitsrayim, Moshe Rabbeinu was fasting. This is because fasting is an integral part of teshuva as it humbles, leads to introspection, and cleanses a person. So too, the Jews when going to war fasted, prayed, and begged Hashem to save them. Every year we fast to remind ourselves that Hashem listens to the prayers, and saves those who do complete teshuva and cry out to him in their time of need, just as the Jews did in those times.

This year when the 13th of Adar falls out on Shabbat the fast is pushed back to Thursday. It is not pushed to Friday, so as not to interfere with the preparations for Shabbat.

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 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. If one feels weak that they cannot fast, a Rabbi should be consulted to decide on a case-by-case basis.

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.

What time does the fast end?

The fast ends at Tzet Hakochavim – three stars. The exact time is subject to varying opinions and customs and one should follow the custom of their shul and rabbi.

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