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A ta'anit, or taanis (in Ashkenaz pronunciation), or taʿanith in Classical Hebrew is a fast in Judaism in which one abstains from all food and drink, including water. A Jewish fast may have one or more purposes, including:

  • A tool for repentance
  • An expression of mourning
  • Supplication, such as the Fast of Esther.

Jewish fast days[edit]

Full fasts[edit]

A Jewish full fast lasts from sunset to darkness the following night. There are two Jewish full fast days:

The most well-known and well-observed full fast is the fast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the only fast day mentioned in the Torah (Leviticus 23:26-32). The other full fast is the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av).

The two full fast days carry four additional restrictions - one may not wash his body, wear leather shoes, use colognes, oils or perfumes, or have sexual relations. Yom Kippur also has all the restrictions of Shabbat and Tisha B'Av has restrictions somewhat similar to a mourner sitting shiva.

The Halakha status of the two Jewish full fasts is that they are obligatory.[1]

Minor fasts[edit]

Minor fasts are observed from dawn to nightfall, without additional restrictions. There are four public minor fasts:

The fourth minor fast, the Fast of Esther, Ta'anit Esther, is observed on the day preceding Purim in commemoration of Esther and the Jewish community of Shushan having fasted before she approached the king unbidden. At the present time, according to the Rambam, the halachic status of the minor fasts is that every Jew may personally choose to observe it or not, it is optional.[2]

Four fasts[edit]

There are four Jewish fast that exist, in all or in part, in commemoration of events having to do with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple:[1][3]

  • Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av, full fast)
  • Fast of Gedalia (Tzom Gedalia, minor fast)
  • Tenth of Tevet (Asara B'Tevet, minor fast)
  • Seventeenth of Tammuz (Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, minor fast)

Customary fasts[edit]

All customary Jewish fasts —like minor fasts— are optional, including:

  • Fast of the Firstborn, Ta'anit Bechorot, observed on the day preceding Passover. In modern times, however, this fast is rarely observed, as most firstborns opt to attend a siyum (festive meal celebrating the completion of a Tractate of the Talmud) instead. This is considered a legitimate form of "breaking" the fast, and therefore the firstborn may eat during the rest of the day.
  • Yom Kippur Katan (literally, the little Yom Kippur) - which is held on the 29th of Heshvan, Tevet, Shevat, Adar, (Adar Sheni in a leap year), Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz and Av. Special Selichot are recited during the mincha service on those days. If the 29th of those months falls on a Friday or a Sabbath, it is observed on the Thursday prior.
  • BaHaB (a Hebrew acronym for Monday, Thursday, Monday) - This is a custom to fast on the first Monday, Thursday and then the following Monday of the Jewish months of Cheshvan and Iyar—shortly following the Sukkot and Passover holidays.[4]
  • Fast of the Khmelnytsky massacres held on 20 Sivan. As the name suggests, this fast commemorates the Khelmelnytsky Massacres.[5]
  • Fast of Samuel: Held on 28th Iyar. Not widely observed.[6]
  • Fast of Moses on Seventh of Adar.[7]
  • Fasting is permitted when a Jewish couple is about to get married. Although this custom is not recorded in the Talmud, an ancient tradition advises bride and groom to fast on the day of their wedding. (This applies both to those who are marrying for the first time and to those who are remarrying.) They fast from daybreak until after the chuppah, eating their first meal during their yichud seclusion at the end of the ceremony.

Customarily, special prayers called selichot are added in the morning prayer services on many of these days.

Break the fast[edit]

A break the fast is a meal that takes places following a fast. After Yom Kippur, it is viewed as a festive meal. The tendency is to overeat after a fast, but this should be avoided. Since the digestive system slows down during fasting, heavy foods such as meat are liable to cause indigestion. Therefore, many Jews are religiously accustomed to eating dairy foods after a fast. Eating light, dairy foods in moderation is considered healthier.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bar-Hayim, David (6 July 2009). "The Four Fasts: Halakha or Minhagh". Machon Shilo. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  2. ^ Bar-Hayim, David (24 July 2016). "The Four Fasts: An In-Depth Review of the Sources". Machon Shilo. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  3. ^ Bar-Hayim, David (15 July 2010). "The Four Fasts and their Halakhic Status Today". Machon Shilo. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  4. ^ Hoffman, Yair. "BaHaB". The Yeshiva World. The Yeshiva World. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  5. ^ http://matzav.com/the-forgotten-fast-day-20-sivan/
  6. ^ http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48918497.html
  7. ^ "The Seventh of Adar". Orthodox Union. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 

External links[edit]