Generally, when observant Jews think about fasting, they think about the dry fasting done on the 9th of Av or Yom Kippur, in which we neither eat nor drink. This is related to the idea of rising above the physical/material plane of existence.

In the context of a one-day fast, or even a two-day fast, dry fasting is doable, but also puts some stress on the body.

Conversely, in the context of making a tikkun over past transgressions, the number of fasts prescribed in Torah is often many more days than simply a day or two. See for example the references in the Tanya in Igeret HaTeshuvah at the end of chapter 1 to Sefer Rokeach and Mishnat Chassidim and also in chapter 3 there.

Medically speaking, water fasting, meaning abstinence from eating, is something that can be done for many, many days consecutively. The world record for fasting is over a year. However, a dry fast (abstinence from both eating and drinking) can only be survived for three to five days. The abstinence from water is the critical factor.

Does the Torah make a distinction between types of fasts? The Aramaic word for fast is תענית from the Hebrew ענה. The Hebrew root has a connotation of to respond or to answer (as in answering for improper actions) and also to deprive, or to delay, or to submit/become humble or to become poor. All of these relate to the idea of depriving oneself of food in humility and an act of submission to G-d's will.

The consequence being that one burns their excess body fat, which is compared to burning the fat of an offering on the altar brought in the Temple, like is mentioned in the Tanya for example.

So the focus seems to be about the burning of body fat, which relates to the eating of food only.

  • 3
    Where does the Torah prescribe fasts for more than a day or two?
    – Alex
    Oct 28, 2019 at 17:25
  • @Alex Per your request... Oct 28, 2019 at 18:46
  • I feel you dig deep but couldn't understand the question. The only Taanit from Torah is Y"K which is commanded as תענו את נפשתיכם hence תענית, nothing to do with answer. So what "types" you're talking about? You HAVE to make a clear distinction between the Torah and any of its interpretations, especially very recent ones.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 28, 2019 at 19:07
  • 1
    @Yaacov Most Jews indeed hold the book of Esther is not part of the Torah.
    – Double AA
    Oct 28, 2019 at 21:22
  • 2
    @AlBerko It's Berakhot 17 ועכשיו ישבתי בתענית ונתמעט חלבי ודמי
    – Double AA
    Oct 29, 2019 at 10:59

2 Answers 2


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Rabbeinu Yona in Sod Hateshuva brings an inyan about what's become referred to as "taanis HaRaavad" which is to refrain from a little bit of eating.

I couldn't find it online so I attached a picture. I don't think it's exactly what you were looking for, but it's close.

  • Source of Raavad is at the end of his sefer on Hilchos Mikvaos. Interestingly, he also advises eating tasty food so that one will be satisfied with less.
    – N.T.
    Aug 20, 2021 at 2:38

If I understand the question correctly, you are asking if there is a concept of fasting from food without refraining from water in Torah.

I would suggest that a צום could be refraining only from food but allowing water. In Ester 5:16 and Yona 3:5-7 not eating and not drinking are specified, which would seem to imply that there could be a tzom not like that. Also in Shmuel II chapter 12, Dovid is tzome, and only food is mentioned, not drink.

This is not conclusive; please don't complain about that.

  • Not complaining & thanks for trying. Fasting is refraining from eating and drinking (food-something you benefit from). But ‘benefit’ in Torah has a particular meaning. This is discussed in Shulchan Aruch and elsewhere. That’s why we make blessings on pleasant scents too. Torah considers them to be a kind of spiritual food (less material than for example, bread and wine). And water, which has neither taste nor scent, is in a unique category. No surprise that Torah, at least part of it, is compared to water. Nov 26, 2019 at 22:59

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