1

It is a positive commandment, ordained by the Prophets, to fast on those days on which tragic events occurred to our forefathers. The purpose of the fast is to stir our hearts to reflect on the ways of repentance, and to serve as a reminder of our own evil deeds,and the deeds of our forefathers, which were as reprehensible as ours, and caused all these troubles for them as well as for us. By remembering these events we will improve our ways, as it has been said, "They will then confess their sins and the sins of their fathers" (Leviticus 26:4). Therefore, it is everyone's duty to take it to heart on those days to examine his past actions and to repent; for fasting is not the main thing, as it was said about the people of Nineveh, "And God saw their deeds" (Jonah 3:10), and our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have said, "It does not say, 'He saw their sackcloth and their fast,' but 'God saw their deeds, that they had turned away from their evil ways.'" Fasting is only a preparation for repentance. Therefore those who while fasting, spend the time taking walks, and doing trivial things, take hold of the least important aspect of the fast, while ignoring the essence [of the fast.]

א

מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה מִדִּבְרֵי הַנְּבִיאִים לְהִתְעַנּוֹת בַּיָּמִים שֶׁאֵרְעוּ צָרוֹת לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ. וְתַכְלִית הַתַּעֲנִית הִיא, כְּדֵי לְעוֹרֵר אֶת הַלְּבָבוֹת לְפַקֵּחַ עַל דַּרְכֵי הַתְּשׁוּבָה, וּתְהִי זֹאת זִכָּרוֹן לְמַעֲשֵׂינוּ הָרָעִים, וּמַעֲשֵׂ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁהָיוּ כְּמַעֲשֵׂינוּ עַתָּה, עַד שֶׁגָּרַם לָהֶם וְלָנוּ אוֹתָן הַצָּרוֹת. וּבְזִכְרוֹן הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, נָשׁוּב לְהֵיטִיב, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְהִתְוַדּוּ אֶת עֲוֹנָם וְאֶת אֲבוֹתָם. וְלָכֵן חַיָּב כָּל אִישׁ לָשׂוּם אֶל לִבּוֹ בְּאוֹתָן הַיָּמִים וּלְפַשְׁפֵּשׁ בְּמַעֲשָׂיו וְלָשׁוּב מֵהֶן, כִּי אֵין הָעִקָּר בְּתַעֲנִית, כְּמוֹ שֶנֶּאֱמַר בְּאַנְשֵׁי נִינְוֵה, וַיַרְא הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת מַעֲשֵֹיהֶם, וְאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה, וַיַרְא אֶת שַׂקָּם וְאֶת תַּעֲנִיתָם לֹא נֶאֱמַר, אֶלָּא וַיַּרְא הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם כִּי שָׁבוּ מִדַּרְכָּם הָרָעָה. וְאֵין הַתַּעֲנִית אֶלָּא הֲכָנָה לִתְשׁוּבָה. לָכֵן אוֹתָן אֲנָשִׁים שֶׁכְּשֶׁמִּתְעַנִּים הוֹלְכִים בְּטִיּוּל וּמְבַלִּים אֶת הַיּוֹם בִּדְבָרִים בְּטֵלִים, תָּפְסוּ אֶת הַטָּפֵל וְהִנִּיחוּ אֶת הָעִקָּר.

2

These are the fast days: the third day of Tishrei, when Gedaliah, the son of Achikam, was killed. After the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, Nebuchadnezzar left him in Eretz Yisrael, and appointed him governor over Yisrael. Because he [Gedaliah] was assassinated, all Jews were exiled and thousands of them were killed; thus, the last ember of Jewish hope died.

ב

וְאֵלּוּ הֵן הַיָּמִים: א. שְׁלשָׁה בְּתִשְׁרִי בּוֹ נֶהֱרַג גְּדַלְיָה בֶּן אֲחִיקָם. שֶׁלְאַחַר שֶׁחָרַב בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, הִשְׁאִירוֹ נְבוּכַדְנֶצַר בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְֹרָאֵל, וַיְשִׂימֵהוּ לְרֹאשׁ עַל יִשְֹרָאֵל. וְעַל יְדֵי שֶׁנֶּהֱרַג, גָּלוּ כֻּלָּן וְנֶהֶרְגוּ מֵהֶם לַאֲלָפִים, וְנִכְבְּתָה גַּחֶלֶת יִשְֹרָאֵל הַנִּשְׁאֶרֶת.

3

The tenth day of Teiveis (is a fast day), because the king of Babylonia, the wicked Nebuchadnezzar, approached Jerusalem, and laid seige to it and crushed it; and this ultimately led to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash.

ג

ב. עֲשָׂרָה בְּטֵבֵת, סָמַךְ מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל, נְבוּכַדְנֶצַר הָרָשָׁע עַל יְרוּשָׁלַיִם וְהֵבִיאָהּ בְּמָצוֹר וּבְמָצוֹק, וּמִזֶּה נִמְשַׁךְ הַחֻרְבָּן.

4

The seventeenth day of Tammuz (is a fast day) because five tragic events occured on that day: 1) the Tablets [of the Covenant] were broken by Moses, when he came down from Mount Sinai, as it is written in the Torah, and this occurred on the seventeenth day of Tammuz. 2) The continual daily sacrifices were abolished. 3) (The Romans) broke through the wall of Jerusalem during the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash. Although, during the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, the wall was breached on the ninth of Tammuz, as it is written, "In the fourth month, on the ninth of the month, the famine was growing worse in the city, etc. then a breach was made in the city," (Jeremiah 52:6), but at the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash, the breach was made on the seventeenth day of Tammuz, and the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash affects us more deeply. (Furthermore, it is stated in the Jerusalem Talmud, that even at the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, the breach was made on the seventeenth, but that because of all the troubles, they made an error in the date). 4) The wicked Apostomos burned a Torah scroll. 5) An idol was placed in the Beis Hamikdash by some wicked people among the Jews, and this caused the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and our exile.

ד

ג. שִׁבְעָה עָשָׂר בְּתַמּוּז, בּוֹ אֵרְעוּ חָמֵשׁ צָרוֹת, נִשְׁתַּבְּרוּ הַלּוּחוֹת כְּשֶׁיָּרַד משֶׁה מִן הָהָר כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בַּתּוֹרָה, וְזֶה הָיָה בְּשִׁבְעָה עָשָׂר בְּתַמּוּז. וְנִתְבַּטֵּל קָרְבַּן הַתָּמִיד. וְהָבְקְעָה הָעִיר בְּחֻרְבַּן בַּיִת שֵׁנִי. אַעַ"גָ דִּבְחֻרְבָּן הָרִאשׁוֹן הָבְקְעָה בְּתִשְׁעָה לַחֹדֶשׁ, דִּכְתִיב (ירמיהו נ״ב:ו׳), בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרְבִיעִי בְּתִשְׁעָה לַחֹדֶשׁ וַיֶּחֱזַק הָרָעָב בָּעִיר וְגוֹ' וַתִּבָּקַע הָעִיר וְגוֹ'. אֲבָל בַּחֻרְבָּן הַשֵּׁנִי, בְּשִׁבְעָה עָשָׂר בּוֹ הָבְקְעָה הָעִיר. וְחֻרְבַּן בַּיִת שֵׁנִי חֲמִירָא לָן. (וְעוֹד אִיתָא בַּיְרוּשַׁלְמִי, דְּגַם בָּרִאשׁוֹן הָיָה בְּשִׁבְעָה עָשָׂר אֶלָּא שֶׁמִּפְּנֵי הַצָּרוֹת, טָעוּ בַּחֶשְׁבּוֹן). וְשָׂרַף אַפּוֹסְטוּמוּס הָרָשָׁע אֶת הַתּוֹרָה, וְהָעֳמַד צֶלֶם בַּהֵיכָל עַל יְדֵי רִשְׁעֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל, וְזֶה גָּרַם חֻרְבָּנוֹ וְגָלֻיּוֹתֵנוּ.

5

The ninth day of Av (is a fast day), because on that day the Almighty decreed that our forefathers in the wilderness, would not enter Eretz Yisrael, for then the spies had returned (from exploring Canaan), and Yisrael cried in vain, and it was established as a day of weeping for future generations. On that day, the first Beis Hamikdash, as well as the second were destroyed, the city of Betar was captured, which was a large city, in which an immense number of Jews lived. On that day, Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Beis Hamikdash, and the surrounding area, and, thereby, the verse was fulfilled, "Zion shall be plowed into a field" (Jeremiah 26:18). (There is another public fast day, the fast of Esther, see Chapter 141:2 below.)

ה

(א) נקרא "צום השביעי". (ב) נקרא "צום העשירי". (ג) נקרא "צום הרביעי". (ד) נקרא "צום החמישי".

6

If any of these fast days occurs on Shabbos, it is postponed until after Shabbos. When the tenth of Teiveis occurs on erev Shabbos, we fast that entire day.

ו

אִם חָלוּ תַעֲנִיוֹת אֵלּוּ בַּשַׁבָּת, דּוֹחִין אוֹתָן לְאַחַר הַשַׁבָּת. אֲבָל אִם חָל עֲשָׂרָה בְּטֵבֵת בְּעֶרֶב שַׁבָּת, מִתְעַנִּין וּמַשְׁלִימִין.

7

Should any of these four fast days occur during the bridegroom's seven days of wedding feast, although these days (of the wedding feast) are considered to him as a Yom Tov, nevertheless, he must fast.1 Since his Yom Tov is only a personal celebration, the public mourning and fasting overrides it, and also, because it is written, "… if I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy" (Psalms 137:6).

ז

חָתָן שֶׁחָלָה אַחַת מִדּ' תַּעֲנִיוֹת אֵלּוּ בְּתוֹךְ שִׁבְעַת יְמֵי הַמִּשְׁתֶּה שֶׁלּוֹ, אַף עַל גַּב שֶׁאֵלּוּ הַיָּמִים הֵמָּה לוֹ כְּמוֹ רֶגֶל, מִכָּל מָקוֹם חַיָּב לְהִתְעַנּוֹת. כֵּיוָן דְּהָרֶגֶל שֶׁלּוֹ הֲוֵי רֶגֶל דְּיָחִיד, אָתִי אֲבֵלוּת וְתַעֲנִית דְרַבִּים וְדָחֵי לֵהּ. וְעוֹד הָא כְּתִיב, אִם לֹא אַעֲלֶה אֶת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם עַל רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי (ריטב"א סוֹף מס' תענית).

8

There is a difference between the first three fast days and Tisha beAv (the ninth day of Av). On the first three fast days, you are permitted to have food during the preceding night until the break of dawn, if you did not have your regular sleep. If, however, you did have your regular sleep, you are forbidden to eat or drink afterwards, unless you planned to do so before going to sleep. If you usually drink something when getting up from sleep, you need not formulate your plan to have a drink (when getting up). But on Tishah beAv you must begin the fast on the day before, while it is still day. On the first three fast days, you are permitted to wash, to apply cream, to wear leather shoes, and have marital relations, but on Tishah beAv all these are forbidden. A pious person, who is in good health, should observe these restrictions on the other fast days, just as on Tishah beAv, except for the wearing of leather shoes, because people might ridicule him. Concerning marital relations, if it is the night of the immersion in the mikveh, he should fulfill his marital obligation on the first three fast days.

ח

חִלּוּק יֵשׁ בֵּין שָׁלֹשׁ תַּעֲנִיוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת לְתִשְׁעָה בְּאָב. בְֹּשָׁלֹשׁ תַּעֲנִיוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת אוֹכְלִים בַּלַּיְלָה שֶׁלִּפְנֵיהֶן עַד שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה עַמּוּד הַשַּׁחַר, וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא יָשֵׁן שְׁנַת קֶבַע. אֲבָל אִם יָשֵׁן שְׁנַת קֶבַע, אָסוּר אַחַר כָּךְ לֶאֱכֹל אוֹ לִשְׁתּוֹת, אֶלָא אִם כֵּן הִתְנָה קֹדֶם שֶׁיָּשֵׁן. וְאִם הוּא רָגִיל לִשְׁתּוֹת לְאַחַר הַשֵּׁנָה, אֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לְהַתְנוֹת עַל הַשְּׁתִיָּה. וּבְתִשְׁעָה בְּאָב, צְרִיכִין לְהַפְסִיק מִבְּעוֹד יוֹם שֶׁלְּפָנָיו. שָׁלֹשׁ תַּעֲנִיוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת, מֻתָּרוֹת בִּרְחִיצָה וְסִיכָה וּנְעִילַת הַסַּנְדָּל וְתַשְׁמִישׁ הַמִּטָּה. וּבְתִשְׁעָה בְּאָב, אֲסוּרִים בְּכֻלָּן. וּמִי שֶׁהוּא בַּעַל נֶפֶשׁ וְאָדם בָּרִיא, יַחְמִיר בְּכֻלָּן כְּמוֹ בְּתִשְׁעָה בְּאָב, וְרַק בִּנְעִילַת הַסַּנְדָּל לֹא יַחְמִיר, מִשּׁוּם חוּכָא וּטְלוּלָא. וּבְתַשְׁמִישׁ הַמִּטָּה אִם הוּא לֵיל טְבִילָה, יְקַיֵּם עוֹנָתוֹ בְּג' תַּעֲנִיּוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת.

9

There is still another lenient feature regarding the first three fasts: pregnant and nursing women, are exempt from fasting, if it causes them discomfort.2 Also, a sick person, even if he is not critically ill, should not fast.3 Nevertheless, even a person who is permitted to eat, should not enjoy an elaborate meal, but should eat only as much as he needs to preserve his health. Children, too, although they do not have to fast, nevertheless, if they understand the significance of mourning, it is proper to train them, and give them only bread and water,4 so that they will be part of the communal mourning.

ט

עוֹד יֵשׁ קֻלָּא בְּג' הַתַּעֲנִיוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת, דְּעֻבָּרוֹת וּמֵנִיקוֹת הַמִּצְטַעֲרוֹת, פְּטוּרוֹת מִלְּהִתְעַנּוֹת. וְכֵן חוֹלֶה, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סַכָּנָה, לֹא יִתְעַנֶּה. וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם אַף מִי שֶׁמֻּתָּר לוֹ לֶאֱכֹל, לֹא יִתְעַנֵּג אֶת עַצְמוֹ, אֶלָּא יֹאכַל מַה שֶּׁהוּא צָרִיךְ לִבְרִיאוּת גּוּפוֹ (תק"נ תקנ"ד). וְכֵן הַקְּטַנִּים, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינָם חַיָּבִים לְהִתְעַנּוֹת, מִכָּל מָקוֹם אִם יֵשׁ בָּהֶם דַּעַת לְהִתְאַבֵּל, רָאוּי לְחַנְּכָם, שֶׁלֹּא לְהַאֲכִילָם רַק לֶחֶם וּמַיִם, לְהִתְאַבֵּל עִם הַצִּבּוּר.

10

Rinsing your mouth in the morning is forbidden on all public fast days.5 The saliva should be spit out, if possible. But if you cannot spit it out, you are permitted to swallow it, even on Yom Kippur, since you do not do it for enjoyment. Tasting food, even when spitting it out, is forbidden on a public fast day. But on a fast day, which you undertake voluntarily, you are permitted to taste food and then spit it out. Similarly, rinsing your mouth is permitted on a private fast day.

י

לִרְחוֹץ פִּיו בְּמַיִם בְּשַׁחֲרִית, אָסוּר בְּכָל תַּעֲנִית צִבּוּר. וְהָרֹק, אִם אֶפְשָׁר לִפְלֹט, יִפְלֹט. וְאִם אִי אֶפְשָׁר, בּוֹלְעוֹ אֲפִלּוּ בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים, כֵּיוָן שֶאֵינוֹ מְכַוֵּן לַהֲנָאָתוֹ. לִטְעֹם הַמַּאֲכָל, אֲפִלּוּ אִם יִפְלֹט, אָסוּר בְּתַעֲנִית צִבּוּר. אֲבָל בַּתַעֲנִית שֶׁהוּא מְקַבֵּל עַל עַצְמוֹ, מֻתָּר לִטְעֹם וּלִפְלוֹט. וְכֵן רְחִיצַת הַפֶּה, מֻתֶּרֶת בְּתַעֲנִית יָחִיד תקס"ז.

11

It is a mitzvah, for every Jewish community, when they are beset with trouble, God forbid, to fast and pray to Hashem, blessed is His Name, (for rescue) from their troubles. But if the time is not appropriate for fasting, for instance, if people are fleeing, they are not permitted to fast, lest their strength will be sapped. However they should resolve to fast a certain number of fast days, when they are saved. This will be counted as if they were now fasting, as we find concerning Daniel, about whom it is written, "He said to me, 'Do not be afraid, Daniel; for from the day you resolved to understand and to fast before your God, your words were heard'" (Daniel 10:12).

יא

מִצְוָה עַל כָּל עֲדַת יִשְֹרָאֵל, שֶׁעַל כָּל צָרָה שֶׁלֹּא תָבוֹא, יִתְעַנּוּ וְיִתְפַּלְּלוּ עַל צָרָתָם לִפְנֵי ה' יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ. וְאִם אֵין הָעֵת מֻכְשֶׁרֶת לְהִתְעַנוֹת, כְּגוֹן הַנִּרְדָּפִים שֶׁאֵינָם רַשָּׁאִים לְהִתְעַנּוֹת, שֶׁלֹּא לִשַׁבֵּר כֹּחָם, יְקַבְּלוּ עֲלֵיהֶם לְהִתְעַנּוֹת כָּךְ וְכָךְ תַּעֲנִיּוֹת לִכְשֶׁיִּנָּצְלוּ, וְנֶחְשָׁב לָהֶם כְּאִלּוּ הִתְעַנּוּ עַתָּה, כִּדְמָצִינוּ בְּדָנִיאֵל דִּכְתִיב, וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי אַל תִּירָא דָּנִיאֵל כִּי מִן הַיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּ אֶת לִבְּךָ לְהָבִין וּלְהִתְעַנּוֹת לִפְנֵי אֱלֹהֶיךָ נִשְׁמְעוּ דְּבָרֶיךָ (תקע"א תקע"ו).