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Fast Days

Fast Days

Days of Opportunity

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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.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Discussion (10)
July 26, 2011
Re: Temple
Though the Tabernacle was mobile, once the Holy Temple was built in Jerusalem it became the only spot where the Holy Temple could be built from that point on.

This law was derived from the following verses (Deuteronomy 12:5-6):

Only at the place where the Lord, your God, shall choose to cause His Name to dwell, may you seek Him at his dwelling...There, you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices.

The preceding verses described how the pagans had sacrificed "upon the high mountains, upon the hills, under every lofty tree." In contrast, the service of God had to be centralized in one place alone, "the place which the Lord, your God shall choose to cause His Name to dwell."
Anonymous
nyc
July 25, 2011
Re: Temple
Once the Holy Temple was built in Jerusalem it became the only spot where the Holy Temple could be built from that point on.

That law was derived from the following verses (Deuteronomy 12:5-6):

Only at the place where the Lord, your God, shall choose to cause His Name to dwell, may you seek Him at his dwelling...There, you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices.

The preceding verses described how the pagans had sacrificed "upon the high mountains, upon the hills, under every lofty tree." In contrast, the service of God had to be centralized in one place alone, "the place which the Lord, your God shall choose to cause His Name to dwell." Nevertheless, until an abode for the Shechinah was constructed, there was no prohibition against sacrificing anywhere in Eretz Yisrael.
Anonymous
nyc
July 21, 2011
Temple
What is the real hold up on the building of another temple? And...MUST...it be on the temple mount of Jerusalem...since the Tabernacle moved about? I mean, if THIS generation is held responsible as the generation of the destruction...then why isn't more done to complete the task?
Anonymous
Prescott, AR/US
July 18, 2011
Pills on Fast Day
The night pill is not a problem. You take it before the fast starts on the day before, and after the fast ends. It is the morning pill that is the problem.

Speak to your doctor and to your local Orthodox rabbi about this problem. Some pills can be doubled up if missed (that is, take two pills that night after the fast ends). However, medicine for certain life-threatening conditions cannot be missed, period. Your local Orthodox rabbi will ask what the medicine is and what condition you are taking the medicine for.
Anonymous
Far Rockaway, NY
February 25, 2011
Here is where it says that
To noam, (Talmud Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1)
Michael
Glenview
December 18, 2010
who said that?
where did our sages say that" Every generation for which the Temple is not rebuilt, is as though the Temple was destroyed for that generation." which gemara?
noam
brooklyn, ny
December 17, 2010
taanis Esther
Why dont we fast on Taanis esther on a Friday?? In 2011, Purim is on Sunday. Since we dont fast on Shabbat; the day before is a friday, and we fast on Thursday. Why???'''
Harvey Bernstein
New York, NY
September 15, 2010
Shabbos
Yom Kippur is the only time we fast on Shabbat. It is the only fast day that is Biblically commanded. On the other days, the fast gets pushed off, generally until Sunday.
Yisroel Cotlar for chabad.org
cary, nc
September 12, 2010
Fast Day
I need to take pills every morning and night. How do i take my pill if I am fasting?
Anonymous
NY
September 9, 2010
Shabbat Fast
I thought it might be good to fast on Shabbat and live on the words of God on that day. Any comment?
Stella H Howell
Wokingham, United Kingdom
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