All About Fast of Esther
Purim is the celebration of the story told in the Biblical book of Esther. In this story tov (good) and evil struggle as Yisrael faces extermination by the wicked man Haman. Haman plots to kill all the Hebrews, but this evil plan is stopped by Esther and her cousin Mordechai. Since that time Hebrews everywhere have celebrated this appointed time with joy and ruckus! On the day BEFORE the celebration of Purim a special fast is held. This fast, of food or water, is taken to commemorate the fasting of Esther and her maidens before she presented herself to the King. Ta’anit Esther fast isn’t specifically commanded in the Scriptures. It was established by the sages as a way to remember the efforts of Esther and the protection of YHWH.
Now understanding and celebrating the Fast of Esther is as easy as A,B,C…
A - All about the festival, a simple overview
B - Biblical references concerning the holy day
C - Celebration information on how to make the day special
A - All about the festival
Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays. It commemorates the book of Esther, a time when the Hebrew people living in Persia were saved from extermination. The Fast of Esther or “Ta’anit” is a new tradition that has sort of evolved concerning Purim.
The day before Purim is observed as a minor fast day.
Esther 9:3--Fasting is mentioned as having had a role in the victory
Participants can fast from sun up to sundown on this day as a reminder of three days of fasting that the Hebrew people did before Esther went before the King. (Read the story to know more about this.
One source sites that, “The 13th of Adar is also the anniversary of the day the fighting against the anti-Semitic forces occurred; Purim is the day the victorious Jews rested and celebrated. The 13th of Adar was then established as an annual fast day for every generation, known as The Fast of Esther. (Esther 9:31).”
Every year, on the 13th of Adar the Fast of Esther is observed in commemoration of the Fast observed by Mordechai and Esther and all Israel. This fast is held the day before Purim.
Over two thousand years ago, the enemies of the Hebrews had planned to subjugate and destroy them. The opposite, however, occurred and the Israelites ruled over their enemies. Read about this in the book of Ester.
The practice of fasting was observed by the people of Israel whenever they were faced by war. It has continued ever since.
In Hebrew this holy day is called “ta’anit Hadassah.”
The day before Purim is a fast day observed in commemoration of the 3 days of fasting by Esther, Mordechai and the entire Jewish community before Esther approached Achashverosh.
On the 13th of the first month Haman issued a decree for the annihilation of the Jews which was to take effect later that year. Mordecai after reading the decree proceeded to inform Esther and to encourage her to promptly plead the cause of her people before her husband the king.
Esther being concerned about approaching the king requested that all Jews present in the city fast for the following 3 days, she and her maids would also fast.
The fast begins at the break of dawn and ends after the Megillah (Book of Esther) is read that night.
If one is feeling weak, one may break the fast after nightfall, prior to Megillah reading.
Some people will get up before dawn and have an early morning breakfast and then fast the rest of the day.
“In Esther 4:16 agrees to see the king uninvited, and asks the Jewish People to fast for three days beforehand. Why did she call for a fast? Because a fast helps to lower the volume on our physical pursuits in order to focus more acutely on our spiritual selves. This facilitates the process of "teshuva" -- literally "return." We return to our essential state of purity. Esther called for a fast, knowing that through soul-searching the Jews would forge a spiritual connection necessary to make her mission successful. And it paid off!,” reads on unknown source.
This is not a fast of sadness. Rather, the purpose of the fast is elevation and inspiration.
The acceptance of this Fast of the 13th of Adar on the part of Israel for later generations is alluded to in the Scroll of Esther: 'And as they accepted upon themselves and upon their children, the matters of their fastings and their cry' (Esther 9).
The 13th of Adar is also mentioned in the Talmud as the day on which vengeance was executed (during the time of the Hasmoneans) against a tyrant who oppressed the land of Yehudah cruelly and arrogantly blasphemed the city of Elohim. The name of the tyrant was Nikanor and he fell by the hand of Yehudah, the son of Matityahu, on the 13th of Adar, which was hence celebrated as a festive day.
The Fast is called by the name of Esther because it was she who first requested the observance of a fast, of Mordechai: 'Go and gather all the Hebrews who are found in Shushan and fast over me, and do not eat and do not drink three days, night and day; and I and my maidens will also fast thus.'
The third chapter of Megillat Esther ends with the publication of Haman's decree to massacre the Hebrew people. The next chapter begins, "When Mordekhai learned all that had happened, Mordekhai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes. He went through the city, crying out loudly and bitterly, until he came in front of the palace gate." The Talmud, in Ta'anit 22b, helps elucidate Mordekhai's motive: "The rabbis taught: When a city is surrounded by gentiles an individual may, in all such cases, afflict himself by fasting."
The fast is nevertheless not observed for a three-day period, as was the case with the original Fast, nor is it observed on the same date. Originally the Fast was observed by Esther and the entire people of Israel on the 14th, 15th and 16th of Aviv, immediately after Mordechai was informed of Haman's decree and of the letter of annihilation which Haman wrote on the 13th of Aviv. Our Fast however, is observed on the 13th of Adar, in memory of the Fast observed by Israel on the day of their mobilization for war against the enemies. The Fast is nevertheless called by the name of Esther since it was she who first proposed its observance. Some Jews in times past have fasted on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of Aviv.
This is a partial fast that begins at dawn ("Alot Hashachar") and ends after nightfall ("Tzait Hakochavim").
Some Orthodox Jews fast an additional three days; on Monday, Thursday and Monday after Purim. Others voluntarily fast the night as well as the day on the 13th of Adar, since the original three-day Fast was observed night and day.
If the 13th of Adar falls on Shabbat, the Fast is observed the preceding Thursday which is the eleventh of Adar.
Just as there is a day to celebrate before Purim there is also a day to celebrate after Purim. This is called "Shushan Purim." According to Megillat Esther, the fight against the anti-Semites in the walled capital city of Shushan, the city in which King Achashverosh lived, took a day longer than in the rural areas. The Jews in Shushan didn't get to rest and celebrate until the day after those in rural areas. In commemoration of this, Megillat Esther says that Purim is celebrated a day later in cities, on the day now known as "Shushan Purim." Our Sages decided that a "city" in this case means a city that had walls (whether they are still standing or not) at the time of Yahshua (Joshua - Moses' successor). For example, Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) celebrates Purim on Shushan Purim.
“There are actually five minor fasts on the Jewish calendar. With one exception, these fasts were instituted by the Sages to commemorate some national tragedy. Three of these five fasts commemorate events leading to the downfall of the first commonwealth and the destruction of the first Temple, which is commemorated by the major fast of Tisha B'Av. Following is a list of minor fasts required by Jewish law, their dates, and the events they commemorate:
The Fast of Gedaliah, Tishri 3, commemorates the killing of the Jewish governor of Judah, a critical event in the downfall of the first commonwealth. The Fast of Tevet, Tevet 10, is the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem. It has also been proclaimed a memorial day for the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. The Fast of Esther, Adar 13, commemorates the three days that Esther fasted before approaching King Ahasuerus on behalf of the Jewish people. The fast is connected with Purim. If Adar 13 falls on a Friday or Saturday, it is moved to the preceding Thursday, because it cannot be moved forward a day (it would fall on Purim). The Fast of the Firstborn, Nissan 14, is a fast observed only by firstborn males, commemorating the fact that they were saved from the plague of the firstborn in Egypt. It is observed on the day preceding Passover.
The Fast of Tammuz, Tammuz 17, is the date when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, another major event leading up to the destruction of the First Temple,” says www.judaism101.com
The Talmud reminds us, "Whoever identifies himself with the suffering of the community will be deemed worthy to witness the deliverance of the community."
B - Biblical References
“Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered,” Psalm 35:13
Now Mordekhai speaks to us: "Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king's palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father's house will perish" (Esther 4:13-14).
Esth 9:21,22, “to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor.”
Esther said, "Go, assemble all the Jews who live in Shushan, and fast in my behalf; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens will observe the same fast. Then I shall go to the king, though it is contrary to the law." Why do all of the Jews need to fast before Esther can approach the king? The Talmud teaches: "When the community is in trouble, a person should not say, ‘I will go to my home, and eat and drink, and enjoy myself.' If he does so, then to him will apply the verse, "And behold joy and gladness, eating meat and drinking wine, saying, 'Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die (Isaiah 22:13).’ And what does it say after this? ‘And the Lord of hosts revealed Himself to my ears: 'Surely this iniquity will not be forgiven you until you die' (Isaiah 22:14)."
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of Yahweh will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and Yahweh will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I,” Isaiah 58:6-9
The entire chapter of Isaiah 58
“Even now,” declares Yahweh, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to Yahweh your Elohim, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for Yahweh your Elohim. Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber,” Joel 2:14-16
“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly,” Matthew 16:6-8.
"And I set my face unto YHWH Elohim, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the YHWH my Elohim, and made my confession, and said, O YHWH, the great and dreadful Elohim, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from the precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land," Daniel 9:3-6; see entire chapter).
"..... The children of Israel were assembled with fasting .... and the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins ....." (Neh 9:1-2).
There are over 30 positive examples, commands, and instructions in Scripture about fasting.
Judges 20:26--Israel fasted for victory in war.
1 Sam. 1:6-7--Hannah fasted for a son
1 Sam. 7:6--Israel fasted in repentance
1 Sam. 31:13--Men of Jabeshgilead fasted in mourning for Saul
2 Sam. 1:12--David and his men fasted in mourning for Saul, Jonathan, and the fallen of Israel
2 Sam. 12--David fasted for mercy upon his child
1 Kings 21:27--Ahab fasted for mercy
2 Chron. 20:3--Jehoshaphat and Israel fasted for help and protection
Ezra 8:21-23--Ezra and the people fasted for help and protection
Nehemiah 1:4--Nehemiah fasted in mourning and for help upon Jerusalem
Nehemiah 9:1,2--Israel fasting in mourning and repentance
Esther 4:16--Esther and friends fasted for victory
Esther 9:3--Fasting is mentioned as having had a role in the victory
Psalm 35:13,14--Fasting in prayer and mourning
Psalm 69: 10,11--Fasting in prayer and mourning
Isaiah 58:6-8--The fast which pleases God
Jeremiah 36:9--Israel fasted for mercy
Joel 1:14; 2:12,15--YHWH commanded fasting and repentance
Jonah 3:5--The Ninevites fasted in repentance for mercy
Daniel 9:3--Daniel fasted for wisdom
Matthew 4:2—Y’shua fasted when tempted in the wilderness
Matthew 6:17-18—Y’shua promised that the Father would bless fasting
Matthew 9:14-15—Y’shua said his disciples would fast
Matthew 17:21--Fasting is necessary for overcoming some demonic strongholds
Mark 9:29--Fasting is necessary for overcoming some demonic powers
Luke 2:37--Fasting was part of Anna's service to YHWH
Acts 13:2--Fasting was part of the ministry of the workers at Antioch
Acts 13:3--Ordination was accompanied by fasting
Acts 14:23--Ordination was accompanied by fasting
1 Cor. 7:5--Fasting and prayer is the only proper reason for abstinence from the marital relationship
2 Cor. 6:5--Fasting was one way Paul approved himself as a minister
2 Cor. 11:27--Paul fasted often
C - Celebration Information
A few short prayers or liturgy for a Ta’anit Esther service include:
May YHWH who blessed Esther with the strength and courage to challenge plots of evil and desecration,
Steel our own resolve to foil the abuse of power where gender is a tool of oppression.
Sustain our effort to return the captives who have been sold into bondage.
May we dismantle the structures of desperation that render us vulnerable to capture and exploitation.
May we create conditions for families and communities to embrace each other lovingly, and enable healthy sustenance for all, that we may live lives that affirm our fullest human dignity, women and men, girls and boys.
Tavo l’fanekha enkat asir, k’godel zro’akha; hoter bnei t’mutah.
May the cry of the captive come before You, according to the greatness of Your power; release those who are appointed to die. [Psalms 79:11]
Joy and gladness shall we attain, sorrow and misery shall flee.
Barukh Ata YHWH, Elo-heinu Melekh Ha’Olam Matir Asurim.
Blessed are You YHWH, Sovereign of the Universe, who frees captives.
May the Shekhina, Divine Presence, dwell among all people at every table in every heart.
It is recommended to cut down on caffeine and sugar before fasting and also to break the fast with light foods. Perhaps you could break the fast with some good matzah ball soup or break the fast with some breakfast!
Don't appear downcast when you fast or boast about how long the fast has been. Fasting is not for show but to afflict your soul so that your Father in heaven will answer your prayer. There are many ways to fast. You can fast by drinking only water or you can fast by drinking water and just enough juice to keep up your strength so that you can do your work. You can fast one meal, two meals, or the whole day. Spend as much time in prayer, reading the Word and meditation as possible. It is important to draw greatly on the strength of the YHWH during your fast.