In contrast to the convivial nature of the Jewish holiday of Purim, the Jewish holiday The Fast of Esther is a solemn day to commemorate the fast observed by Esther and Mordechai on three days after the date that King Ahasuerus (at the request of the evil Haman) planned to subjugate and destroy the Jews. Originally the fast took place on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of Nisan after Mordechai (Esther’s cousin) uncovered Haman’s plan for the annihilation of the Jewish people. Nowadays, the Jewish holiday is celebrated on 13 Adar reflecting the date of Israel’s mobilization against the Persian Empire, and the onset of the more joyous Jewish holiday of Purim.
The Torah prescribes that when a Jewish army is to go to war, they shall fast the day before, which is the reason Esther called for the fast and was joined by the rest of Israel. The act of fasting before war affirms that man does not prevail by physical or military strength in battle, but only by lifting his eyes towards the heavens and praying for Divine Mercy to grant the strength to fight victoriously. The Jewish holiday is a solid reminder that a Jews best weapon is the recognition that strength and victory come only through G-d.
Laws of the Fast of Esther
- The Jewish holiday fast begins at sundown and ends after nightfall.
- No eating or drinking is permitted during the Jewish holiday fast.
- Since this is a minor fast, pregnant or nursing women are exempt, as are those who are moderately ill. Should you not be able to fast due to a minor ailment, you are obligated to make up the fast on a later date. Still have questions? Consult your rabbi.
- Should 13 Adar fall on Shabbat, the Jewish holiday fast is to be observed two days earlier on the 11th of Adar which will fall on a Thursday.
- It is customary to extend the fast past sundown until the Megillah is read, unless you happen to live in a walled city, in which it is read on the 15th of Adar. For a better explanation see our article on the Jewish holiday Shushan Purim.
- During the afternoon Mincha prayers, the paragraph of Aneinu is added to the silent Amidah, during the blessing of Shema Koleinu. In both Shacharit and Mincha, the chazzan inserts Aneinu as separate blessing between Gelulah and Refuah.
- As on other public fasts, the Torah reading of Vayechal Moshe is read both at Shacharit and Mincha on the Jewish holiday.
- If a Brit Milah falls on the Jewish holiday Fast of Esther, the Seudat Mitzvah should be postponed until the evening. The father, mother and Sandek may even eat during the afternoon of the fast day, since it’s considered like their holiday.
- Avinu Malkeiunu is said only in Shacharit, but not in Mincha.