Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fast of Esther

"Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day; I and my maidens will also fast in like manner; and so will I go into the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16). So responded Esther to Mordechai when he requested that she present herself, unbidden, before King Achashverosh.

In commemoration of Esther's declaration, Jews around the world observe Ta'anit Esther, the Fast of Esther, on the 13th of Adar, the day before Purim. (If the 13th of Adar occurs on Shabbat, the fast is observed on the Thursday prior.) This year Ta'anit Esther will be observed tomorrow, Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

The fast begins at dawn (aloht hashachar)* and ends at nightfall, during which time eating and drinking are prohibited. (Pregnant and nursing women, and others with health restrictions may be exempt from fasting--please consult your rabbi).

On Ta'anit Esther, as on other fast days, special prayers are added to the synagogue services:

1. Selichot (Penitential Prayers) and Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King) are recited during the morning and afternoon service.  When Ta'anit Esther is observed on the eve of Purim, Avinu Malkeinu is not recited in the afternoon.

2. At the morning and afternoon service, excerpts from Exodus 32 and 34 are read from the Torah. These include the 13 Attributes of God's Mercy. At the afternoon service only, the Torah reading is followed by a special haftarah for fast days.

3. The Ah'nay'noo prayer, which asks for special forgiveness, is added to the morning and afternoon services by the prayer leader. An individual who is fasting includes Ah'nay'noo in the blessing of Sh'ma Koh'laynu (Hear Our Voices) when saying the afternoon service.

*Some people will get up before dawn and have an early morning breakfast (but this is permitted only if a decision to do so is verbally expressed the night before).

This Treat was last posted on March 3, 2015.

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