The Jewish calendar contains several fast days, most of them commemorating various landmark events that revolve around the destruction of the Holy Temples. They are:

3 Tishrei—the Fast of Gedaliah

10 Tishrei—Yom Kippur

10 TevetAsarah B’Tevet

13 Adar—the Fast of Esther

17 TammuzShivah Asar B’Tammuz

9 AvTisha B’Av

The following rules apply to all fast days aside from Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, which have their own rules (see our Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av guides).

Why are we fasting? It's not our fault that the Temple was destroyed . . .Fasting is pretty simple. If you are a healthy man or woman over the age of bar or bat mitzvah, just abstain from food and drink from dawn until dark. Click here to find out when the fast starts and ends at your location.

A few technical details:

  • If you are pregnant or nursing and are in pain or feel weak, do not fast on this day. If you’re ill, consult with a rabbi. But even if you are exempt from fasting, skip the delicacies and sweets for a day.
  • You can wake up early before the fast begins and grab a bite—as long as you had this in mind before you went to sleep.
  • Try to make it to your synagogue for the day’s prayer services. We add some special fast-day prayers, and read from the Torah, during both the morning and afternoon prayers. There’s also a special fast-day haftorah following the afternoon Torah reading.
  • If the fast day falls on Shabbat, it is postponed until Sunday (or in the case of the Fast of Esther, moved up to Thursday).

Why are we fasting? It’s not our fault that the Temple was destroyed. The people at that time refused to listen to the prophets who warned them to better their ways. We are still suffering the consequences.

On this, the sages explain: “Every generation for which the Temple is not rebuilt, is as though the Temple was destroyed for that generation.” If so, a fast day is not really a sad day, but an opportune day. It's a day when we are empowered to fix the cause of that first destruction, so that our long exile will be ended and we will find ourselves living in messianic times—may that be very soon.