Fast of Esther

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Fast of Esther
Official nameHebrew: תַּעֲנִית אֶסְתֵּר
Observed byJews in Judaism
SignificanceCommemorating the three-day fast observed by the Jewish people in the story of Purim
Begins13th day of Adar at dawn (if Shabbat, then 11th day of Adar at dawn)
EndsThe same day, at nightfall
2018 dateFebruary 28
2019 dateMarch 20
2020 dateMarch 9
Related toPurim

The Fast of Esther (Ta'anit Ester, Hebrew: תַּעֲנִית אֶסְתֵּר‎) is a fast from dawn until dusk on Purim eve.

Origin and purpose[edit]

The fast commemorates one of two events in the Book of Esther: either Esther and the Jewish community of Shushan having fasted before she approached the king unbidden (Esther 4:16), or a fast which is presumed to have occurred on the 13th of Adar, when the Jews fought a battle against their enemies.[1]

It is a common misconception that this fast dates to the time of Esther. Esther 9:31 states They had established for themselves and their descendants the matters of the fasts and their cry, but this refers instead to the fasts mentioned in Zechariah 8:19.[2]

The first mention of the Fast of Esther is as a Minhag that is referenced in the Gaonic period.[3] Recently, Mitchell First has written a detailed study of the origin of the fast and provided an explanation for its arising in the Gaonic period.[4]


The Fast is observed on the 13th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. (When the year has 2 Adar months, it is observed only in the 2nd Adar). If the date of the Fast of Esther falls on Shabbat (Saturday), the fast is instead observed on the preceding Thursday, as this was the case in 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2017. This will occur again in 2024. (Shulchan Aruch S.686 s.2)

As the Fast of Esther is not one of the four public fasts ordained by the Prophets, the laws concerning its observance are more lenient; pregnant women, nursing mothers, and those who are weak are not required to observe it.[5]

The Gregorian dates, from dawn until nightfall, for 2018–2020 are:[6]

  • 2018: February 28
  • 2019: March 20
  • 2020: March 9

Fasting in the Book of Esther[edit]

It is generally accepted in the rabbinic tradition that the original three-day "Fast of Esther" mentioned in chapter 4 of Book of Esther occurred on the 14th, 15th, and 16th days of Nisan, these being the eve and first two days of Passover.[7] While halacha normally forbids fasting on Passover, it is believed that Esther reasoned it would be better to fast on one Pesach lest they all be destroyed and thus never be able to observe the holiday in the future. But due to the normal prohibition of fasting on Passover, the "Fast of Esther" instead became attached to the eve of Purim, the 13th of Adar.[7]

The 13th of Adar itself is thought to have been was a fast day for the warriors while going out to battle, as it is believed to have been customary to fast during the battle in order to gain divine favor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Ibn Ezra, Ralbag, Malbim on Esther 9:31
  3. ^ "The first who mentions it is R. Aḥa of Shabḥa (8th cent.) in "She'eltot," iv." The Jewish Encyclopedia, Archived 2011-09-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ First, Mitchell (Nov 2010). "The Origin of Taanit Esther". AJS Review. 34:2: 309–351. A short summary of this article is at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
  5. ^ The Fast of Esther, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  6. ^ "Ta'anit Esther (Fast of Esther) in Israel". Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b "The Fast of Esther". Jewish Virtual Library. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011.