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Are "minor" fasts such as Taanit Esther ("Fast of Esther"; i.e. the day before Purim) or Tzom Gedaliyah ("Fast of Gedaliyah"; i.e. the day after Rosh Hashanah) optional or obligatory?

Under what conditions is one permitted to skip a minor fast?

  • "Are they optional or pretty much have to be followed?" Are those mutually exclusive? – Double AA Sep 28 '14 at 22:25
  • I like the old version better. – Double AA Sep 29 '14 at 14:37
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/63949 – msh210 Dec 21 '15 at 19:18
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    In the comments, there is some dispute regarding the meaning of the word "optional" as you use it in your question. The answer below interprets it to mean that any individual can decide whether or not they want to fast, and they don't have any halachic compulsion to fast if they don't want to. (As such, the answer indicates that the fast is not optional and that normative halacha generally requires any given adult individual to fast - aside from some exceptions, such as people who are pregnant, nursing, ill, or otherwise cannot healthily tolerate fasting). Is this what you mean by "optional"? – Fred Dec 21 '15 at 22:55
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    Some halachic background regarding the status of the fasts of Tzom Gedalya, 10th of Teves, and the 17th of Tammuz: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/40796. – Fred Dec 21 '15 at 23:04
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Fast days are not optional. The "minor" means that they start at daybreak rather than the night before (as do tish'a b'av and yom kippur). Note the rules quoted below for when one may skip the fast (because of illness).

Yom Kippur is required by the Torah and Ta'anis Esther is connected to Purim not the destruction of the temple. Once the temple will have been rebuilt, the requirements will change, but that does not effect what we do nowadays.

There are circumstances in which one may "vow" a fast on the following day as part of the mincha prayer but that is not the case of the fasts that you were asking about.

ArtScroll footnotes 10 and 11 to Rosh Hashannah 18b1

Ritva concludes that according to all views, these fasts have been accepted by the nation and neither a community nor an individual has the right to disregard them. See also Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 550:1

Fast Days

The following rules apply to all fast days aside from Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, which have their own rules (see our Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av guides).
...
If you are pregnant or nursing and are in pain or feel weak, do not fast on this day. If you’re ill, consult with a rabbi. But even if you are exempt from fasting, skip the delicacies and sweets for a day.

Minor Fasts Ta'anit Tzibur (תענית צבור in Hebrew)

There are five minor fasts on the Jewish calendar. With one exception, these fasts were instituted by the Sages to commemorate some national tragedy. The minor fasts (that is, all fasts except Yom Kippur and Tisha b'Av) last from dawn (first light) to nightfall (full dark), and one is permitted to eat breakfast if one arises before dawn for the purpose of doing so (but you must finish eating before first light). There is a great deal of leniency in the minor fasts for people who have medical conditions or other difficulties fasting. (emphasis mine)

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    Actually, fast days are fundamentally optional, so this is wrong. – Double AA Sep 28 '14 at 3:07
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    Thats not why i said they were optional. It's because the halacha is they are optional. (I'm not sure I agree with your definition of "optional" in general btw.) – Double AA Sep 28 '14 at 13:30
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    @DoubleAA It is a line from a dispute in the time of the second temple and about megilla Taanis. it is not discussing the "minor fasts" that we observe today. In any case see Art Scroll Gemoro 18b1 botes 10 and 11. The situation was in the time of the Tannaim and the question was about sending the messengers. During that time, the tzibur had not fully accepted the fasts. The quote dealt with each community could decide not each individual. In our time the entire tzibur has accepted them as mandatory – sabbahillel Sep 28 '14 at 22:07
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    @Ani Yodeya I added the citation from the Ritva and Shulchan Oruch on the fact that it is now globally mandatory. – sabbahillel Sep 28 '14 at 22:12
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    @Ani , DoubleAA I did not have the time to copy in the complete comments which go into more detail. I just quoted the final answer (as to what is done nowadays) to answer the question. The complete comments go into detail as to why it was communities and not individuals that decided in the time of the mishnah (when messengers were sent) and why we treat it as the entire Jewish community that treated it as obligatory since we now use the fixed calendar. This discussion would be a separate question. The final answer is based on the Ritva and the Shulchan Aruch. – sabbahillel Sep 29 '14 at 17:08

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