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Why Is It Called the Fast of Esther?

Why Is It Called the Fast of Esther?



As I understand it, Esther called for a three-day fast before she went to see the king. The three days lasted until the first day of Passover—so they fasted that year instead of eating the Passover festive meal.

Now we are making a fast on the day before Purim. I see that the reason given is because they probably fasted on that day, since they were praying to be delivered from their enemies. But if so, why do we call it the “Fast of Esther”? Esther’s fast was the three-day one which included the first day of Passover. Obviously, we’re not going to do that every year. But why call this fast the Fast of Esther?


Great question. Actually, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, asked the same thing.

His explanation was that Esther was the only one who could have fasted on that day. The rest of the people might have felt they should be fasting, but were not permitted to, since they needed every ounce of strength to defend themselves against Haman’s venomous hordes.

Esther, sitting in the palace, was the only one who had nothing to fear, and so was permitted to fast.

Since she was the only one who fasted that first time around, we call the fast after her.

Based on the Rebbe’s talk on Purim 5730 (1970).
See also Likkutei Sichot, vol. 6, pp. 371–372.
Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov is co-director, along with his wife Chanie, of Chabad of Northwest Indiana, and a member of's Ask the Rabbi team.
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Charlie January 18, 2016

I did misunderstand, Eliezer, sorry. However, even the second time she could be considered to have been in danger. Remember that Mordecai had told her not to believe she would be spared. Perhaps he meant that for only the first time, though. I guess I'm not clear on it. Shalom Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov Author January 17, 2016

To Charlie I believe you misread what I wrote. The Rebbe said that the fast today is NOT a commemoration of Esther's initial fast (at which time she certainly did have reason to fear). Rather, we commemorate her fast at the time that the rest of Jews went to war. At that time, she personally had no reason to fear because she was safely tucked away in the palace. Reply

Anonymous January 14, 2016

Beg to say that Rabbi Schneerson saying Esther had nothing to fear is contradicted by Scripture itself. She stood to lose her very life if she went to the King unbidden. Also, Scripture clearly states that she called for all Jews to fast along with her. Surely the Rabbi has been misquoted. Reply

Pauline Mugo January 11, 2016

fast and have faith that your intentions have been answered.....out of experience Reply

David Overland Park, Ks via February 22, 2013

I would suggest that the fast is called Taanit Esther to commemorate the fact that she herself, and not the later Rabbis, called for it. Part of the lesson of the Megillah is that Hashem's invisible hand guides our lives. Mordechai's statement that she had ended up in her position for "for times such as these" is directed to us all. We learn that our fate and our future are in our own hands, and yet inextricably linked with that of the rest of the Jewish people.

Unlike the Rabbinic fasts, which commemorate loss and mourning, and are thus reactionary, Esther's fast charges us to be pro-active. We are not simply to commemorate her fast, we are to create our own, modeled on hers, which challenges us to examine our relationships both with G-d and the world around us. Strengthened by this process, we are to go out and confront our own Ahashverosh, and defend ourselves against any and all decrees threatening our Jewish life and community. Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem February 19, 2013

Seems that there are two fasts ;) The first one Esther requests that all the Jews should fast for 3 days and nights for her since she was about to go against the royal decree and appear before the king Achashverosh unsummoned, which would normally end in a person getting the death sentence.

The second fast was later, before the Jews were about to be attacked. Reply

Esther St. Louis March 18, 2011

Fast of Esther Actually, Mordecai tells Esther that she should not think that she will be safe, should Haman's wicked plot be carried out. Mordecai told her that she was Queen "for such a time as this", that is, to save her people. Right? Reply

Levi Potash Brooklyn, ny March 11, 2009

to Yehudah Of course everyone fasted when the news broke out and when Esther asked of Mordachai that everyone fast for 3 days. However that transpired right about Pesach time.
when it came to the actual fighting of self defence on the 13th of Adar, ANOTHER fast was in order. but all the people were considerd soldiers in the war, hence they are not allowed to fast!
The only one who was safe and therfore permited to fast was Esther, and therfore, the Rebbe conjects, the fast was named for her! Reply

Yaakov March 11, 2009

U read about the Fast too fast Yehudah, reread the question. Sure all Jews (including minors) fasted in accordance with Esther's request - that was at Passover time, when the palace drama occured. However, almost a year later (the following Adar) the big showdown between the Jews and their enemies was played out. At that time, all Jews had to fend for their lives (in actual fact, their enemies became dispirited and it was they who had to fend for their lives). Tradition calls for fasting etc. in times of battle, but those on the frontline need their energy to fight. Here, all Jews but Esther were on the frontline. Our fast is not at Passover time, but rather, in Adar - commemorating the fast of Esther on behalf of all Jewry. Reply

Yehudah Cleveland, OH March 9, 2009

Fast of Esther I have a hard time with the reasoning that Esther was the only one who could fast. We read in Esther 4:3, 16 and 17 that people were fasting when they heard of the plot and that Mordecai did according to all Esther requested, which means he rounded up all Jews to not eat or drink for three days. At the very least Mordecai fasted. Reply

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