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More than one Israeli has told me that women in Israel don't fast. More specifically, that a large percentage of otherwise observant (healthy, non-pregnant, non-nursing) Jewish women in Israel do not fast on the Jewish public fasts (with the exception of 9 Av and Yom Kipur, when they do fast). Note that this was said about women only: observant men do fast.

  1. To the extent to which it's true, why is it true? Why don't the women fast?
  2. What excuse do they have? I mean, halacha seems to require fasting. What limud z'chus is there?
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Note 10 in Rav Eliezer Melamed's article on the "lighter fasts" states as follows:

וכיום ההוראה הרווחת לנשים אשכנזיות שלא לצום. ועיין בפסקי תשובות תקנ, א, שהביא דעות מופלגות להיתר, שכל הנשים הראויות לילד פטורות מהצום, כדי שיהיה להן כוח לילד. ויש אמרו שתפדה את הצום בצדקה. ע"כ. ואין נוהגים להורות כמותם, אבל במקום ספק אפשר לצרף את דבריהם להיתר.‏

Nowadays the widespread teaching for Ashkenazi women is not to fast. See Piskei Teshuvos 550 (1) who brings various opinions to be lenient in that women who could bear children are free from fasting in order for them to have the strength to have children. There are those who say she should redeem the fast with charity.

The custom is not to teach these opinions but where there is a doubt the opinions can be weighed in the decision to be lenient.

The Piskei Teshuvos himself says the reason is because our bodies have become weaker over time but that one cannot be lenient; one must ask a Rav.

It seems that the women who do not fast have taken on these lenient opinions.

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    @msh210 Just remember, piskei tshuvos was written by a hassidic author and his collation and rulings reflect that. This is one instance. No hassidic women fast on the three minor fasts. The joke the hassidim say about this is their women are either a yoledes, a meinekes, or a cholah. – user6591 Sep 16 '15 at 17:34
  • @user6591 not true. Plenty of chassidic women fast – user613 Oct 7 '15 at 14:37
  • @user613 if what you mean by plenty is a small percentage of chassidish women which by default of a tremendous population is plenty of women, than i might agree. But as it stands, only single girls or married and as of yet not pregnant nursing (or sick) will commonly fast. Any married, child rearing chassidish woman who fasts is uncommon and praiseworthy. – user6591 Oct 7 '15 at 14:50
  • @user6591 Pregnant or nursing don't need to. But once they finished, they do need to. A large percentage of the chassidic women I know do fast (I'm chassidic in a chassidic community). Some people who have a lot of difficulty do get a heter. – user613 Oct 7 '15 at 15:01
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    @User613 I was going to guess that:) Ashrei chelkicham! – user6591 Oct 7 '15 at 15:19
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There is an exemption not only for a meineket (a nursing mother), but also for a yoledet (a woman who had given birth). They were never included in the minor fasts to begin with.

There are plenty of women who go through many years of their lives either pregnant or nursing. Furthermore, many rabbis are of the opinion that for 2 (e.g. Rabbi Mordechai Willig) or even 3 years after having a baby, a woman need not observe the minor fasts as she's still recovering -- even if not nursing. Thus, many women could easily go through ages 20--40 having a baby every three years, and thus not observing any of the minor fasts.

I'll add a sociological conjecture: women who didn't have lots of children would look at the "frummest" woman they knew -- likely one who was having a baby every two years -- and say "if she's not fasting, I don't need to either."

  • I've heard of 2-3 years being used for issues of vestot or family planning, but skipping out on fast days seems pretty extreme. Lemaaseh they're either weak or not. – Double AA Sep 16 '15 at 23:15

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