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Fast of Esther

Fast of Esther


Haman’s “Final Solution” was scheduled for the 13th of Adar. Instead, Haman was hanged, and by royal decree the Jews mobilized in self-defense and successfully defended themselves against all attacks. On the next day, the 14th of Adar, the Jews rested, savored their miraculous salvation, and established the holiday of Purim.

Whenever in peril, we are commanded to institute a fast day to repent, pray, and ask for Divine mercy. Thus the 13th of Adar, the day of battle, was a day of fasting.

Earlier in the Purim narrative, Esther risked her life by appearing before the king without permission. But first she asked the Jews to fast with her for three days.

Whenever in peril, we are commanded to institute a fast day to evoke Divine mercyWe commemorate these fasts every year by fasting on the day before Purim, a fast which is called Ta’anit Esther (the Fast of Esther). If Purim falls on a Sunday, the fast is observed on the Thursday beforehand.1

Fasting is simple. If you are healthy and over the age of bar or bat mitzvah, don’t eat or drink from dawn (click here to find out when that is in your location) until after the Megillah reading on Purim night (or, if the fast is moved up to Thursday, after nightfall).2

Click here for basic fast-day information.

Machatzit Hashekel

In commemoration of the half-shekel contributed by each Jew to the Holy Temple—and which the Talmud credits as having counteracted the 10,000 silver talents Haman gave to King Ahasuerus to obtain the royal decree calling for the extermination of the Jewish people—it is customary to give three coins in “half” denominations (e.g., half-dollar coins) to charity on the afternoon of the Fast of Esther, before minchah (the afternoon prayer services).

In many synagogues, plates are set out with silver half-dollars, so that all can purchase them to use in observance of this custom.

It is customary to give three half-dollars for every member of the family. This commemorates the three contributions the Jews gave for the building of the Tabernacle and for its sacrifices.

If you didn’t manage to give machatzit hashekel before minchah, you can do so afterwards, or before the Megillah reading on Purim night or morning.


Normally, when a fast falls on Shabbat, we delay the fast until Sunday—but Purim wouldn't be so festive if we were fasting on that day . . . so instead we fast on the Thursday beforehand. In honor of the Shabbat, we even refrain from fasting on Friday. (If, however, you forget to fast on Thursday, you should fast on Friday.)


If you find yourself in extenuating circumstances, consult with a rabbi to find out whether you can eat after nightfall but before the Megillah reading.

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Discussion (11)
March 24, 2016
Women do fast Taanis Esther. But because It is considered the most lenient of the fasts and someone ill or weak need not fast, women who are pregnant or nursing often do not fast. In some communities that is extended to women who have young children to take care, etc.
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
March 23, 2016
Elective fasting
If Queen Esther instituted this fast, why are women not obligated to participate? Don't virtually all Jewish women fast anyway?
Rochester, NY
March 23, 2016
First Purim
12(Adar)/13/562; Feb 23/562

Two weeks later Jeconiah released.

Do you know who King Ahasuerus was? Is there a secular history for him?
February 21, 2013
Giving Shekels
We are coin dealers and have Israeli coins, I managed to pull what appears to be 1/2 shekels out of our collection and now we just have to find the appropriate charity, we probably will end up donating them and the silver to our local Lubovich Temple ! It was fun and educational to enjoy this little observed Holiday, now the fasting, that's going to be a little tougher...
Sout h Florida
February 21, 2013
I forgot the fast on
I forgot to fast on Thusday, I will do it tomorrow. Thanks for you clarification about this.
March 7, 2012
Great information
I turn to you guys! Thank you for this resource. The HTML is pure mitzvah.
March 21, 2011
Half Shekel
Women are not obligated in this Mitzvah.

There are some with the custom of a husband also giving on behalf of a wife, but an unmarried women need not do this.
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
March 17, 2011
I learned that the reason we fast as stated in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is not because of the three days the Jews fasted for Esther. He says that the real reason that the we fast on Tanit Esther is because on that day the Jews fasted and did teshuva for the impending battle with the Amalikim and their supporters.
Cincinnati, Ohio
March 17, 2011
Thank you for this web site. So informative and educational in every aspect. Like Bob I don't know what I would and should do without Chabad :)

Thank you to Rabbi and Chaya Korf for all you do for your community. You both give and add so much to each and every one of us. For this I am so greatfull !
Suzanne Larrison
St. Petersburg, Florida
March 17, 2011
Women and the Half Shekel
In the Torah only men over 20 gave the half shekel. Should an unmarried woman give this donation now?
Charlotte, NC
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