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When Purim (i.e., the 14th of Adar) occurs on Sunday, the fast of Esther is moved back to Thursday, Adar 11. Why isn't it moved to Friday Adar 12?

It's not as if we don't already have fast days that occur on Friday. 10 of Tevet sometimes occurs on Friday. And the fast of the 1st born on Erev Pesach is also on Friday (according to most opinions. IIRC, there are some that do make it Thursday) when Pesach occurs on Shabbat.

Why don't we do the same for Ta'anit Esther?

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  • Which communities are you referring to? Some do fast on Friday
    – Double AA
    Mar 1 '17 at 15:41
  • @DoubleAA I was unaware of that. Can you give me some examples so that I can edit my question?
    – DanF
    Mar 1 '17 at 15:43
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The Meiri, in defending the custom of Provence to fast on Friday 12 Adar against the claims of the students of the Ramban who fasted on Thursday 11 Adar, notes the claims of the students of the Ramban to be (Magen Avot 23):

אף הם משיבים שעשרה בטבת שהוא מן הצומות הקבועים, וכן הדין שהוא תענית קבוע מדברי הנביאים ונעשה על דבר של פרענות ואקדומי פורענותא לא מקדימין (מגילה ה' א) אבל תענית אסתר שאינו חובה גמורה כל כך ושאין בו דין אקדומי פורענותא דאדרבא תענית של שמחה הוא, ראוי להקדימו לחמישי כדי שלא להתענות בערב שבת, ונמצא שאתם עושים שלא כהלכה
They say that 10 Tevet is from the fixed fasts, and it is is fixed from the words of the prophets and made on a negative event, and we don't push negative events earlier (Megilla 5a) but Ta'anit Esther which is not such a full obligation and which doesn't have the rule of "don't push negative events earlier" for on the contrary it is a fast of happiness, it is better to push it earlier to Thursay so as not to fast on Friday, and hence you are acting not in accordance with Halakha.

The Meiri defends the local custom by arguing that any fast which is based in a particular Mitzva (as opposed to an arbitrary date that one chooses for a personal ascetic fast) is allowed to be observed on Friday. See there for details.

The Maggid Mishna (Ta'aniyot 5:5) quoting Geonim writes that only fast days which are occurring on their intended dates can be observed on Friday, but this fast which was supposed to be on the 13th should be pushed back to Thursday.

The Tur (OC 686) says the fast can't be held on Friday because all the extra petitionary prayers will prevent people from adequately preparing for Shabbat.

The common custom nowadays is to fast on Thursday, but the Rama (OC 686:2) notes that if there is a reason to eat on Thursday (eg. the meal at a Brit Milah) then they can have the meal on Thursday and observe the fast on Friday. (Not everyone agreed with this position.)

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  • Quite fascinating! I had no idea that there were differing opinions,. If you can, edit in which communities currently fast on Friday as a regular habit. I don't know of any.
    – DanF
    Mar 1 '17 at 16:19
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    The OP mentioned that the fast of the firstborn occurs on Friday when Pesach starts on Shabbat, but when Pesach falls on Sunday, there is a similar argument about if the fast of the firstborn is pushed back to Thursday (see OC 470:2 and Igrot Moshe OC 4:69).
    – Double AA
    Mar 1 '17 at 16:36
  • Yes, indeed! I was aware of that difference. I guess, for some reason, since the fast is already made earlier when Pesach is on Sunday, they decided to be more lenient, and move it earlier to Thursday, but, when Erev Pesach is on Friday, already, they leave it alone. Sounds like somewhat "inconsistent" minhagim, FWIW.
    – DanF
    Mar 1 '17 at 16:44
  • @DanF What is inconsistent? Purim doesn't ever fall on Saturday. We just have the variation where Purim is on Sunday, which is just like when Pesach is on Sunday: the popular custom is to observe the fast on Thursday
    – Double AA
    Mar 1 '17 at 16:48
  • What seems inconsistent are the minhagim for Ta'anit Bechorot. It is a minhag to begin with (not mentioned in Tana"ch anywhere as the others are.) So, if Pesach is on Sunday, they're moving it back to Thurs. But if Pesach is on Shabbat, they leave it at Friday? It's the most flexible of al the fast days, Why not move it back to Thursday in that situation, too?
    – DanF
    Mar 1 '17 at 16:50
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Ta'anit Ester is a relatively recent custom(1), so the Talmud never standardised it. Therefore, it is unsurprising that there is some variation in its observance (and even in its name, with some early sources (such as Raavyah) referring to it as תענית פורים). One of these points of variation is what to do If Purim falls out on Sunday; is the pre-holiday fast (which cannot be performed on Shabbat) pushed back to Friday, or pushed further back to Thursday.

R. Mehahem HaMeiri discusses this in his Magen Avot (which discusses and defends the customs of his native Provence)(2) in chapter 23:

שהם נוהגים כל זמן שאירע פורים באחד בשבת שמקדימין את התענית ליום חמישי שלפניו. ואנו נוהגים להקדימו לששי לבד אעפ"י שהוא ערב שבת... צוחו עלינו למה שאנו עושים שלא כהלכה וממה שראו בסוף מגלת תענית (פי"א) כל שנשבע להתענות בערב שבת ובעריו"ט הרי זו שבועת שוא ... אבל תענית אסתר שאינו חובה גמורה כל כך ושאין בו דין אקדומי פורענותא דאדרבא תענית של שמחה הוא, ראוי להקדימו לחמישי כדי שלא להתענות בערב שבת, ונמצא שאתם עושים שלא כהלכה.

He explains that their custom was to fast on the preceding Friday, and others mocked them and noted that in Megillat Ta'anit it states that if one vows to fast on Friday, the vow is inoperative. And [while bona fide fast days may be observed on Friday and we apply the dictum that we do not observe sad days earlier than necessary] Ta'anit Ester is not a bona fide obligation that would lead us to overrule the usual no fasting on Friday rule, and furthermore, it is a happy day, so the dictum of not observing sad days earlier than necessary doesn't apply.

That is their reasoning. Meiri himself defends his practice, explaining that the Megilat Ta'anit is only referring to fasting for no good reason:

וא"כ זו שבמגילת תענית אנו מפרשים אותה במתענה שלא לשום כונה טובה

He cites Ra'avad as agreeing with this, but clarifying that the fast should be limited to the time that the sun is up:

ואף הרב הגדול הראב"ד כך הוא דעתו אלא שהוסיף בפירושו שאע"פ שמתענה ומשלים דוקא שלא לאכול בעוד שהחמה בעולם, ואף על פי שהיא בשקיעתה אחר שדמדומי חמה עדין נוצצים, אבל מששקעה החמה לגמרי שאינו אלא תוספות אינו נמנע מלאכול מתורת תענית, שאין תוספות לתענית במקום שתוספות שבת לוקה, וכתב בלשון זה: ולזו נהגו בתענית אסתר שחל להיות בערב שבת שאוכלין תיכף ליציאתם מבית הכנסת ואין ממתינין עד חשיכה.

R. Mordekhai b. Hillel (Megillah remez 776) is of the opinion that the fast should be observed on Thursday as opposed to Friday, since on Friday people are busy preparing for Shabbat:

ן ומה שאנו מקדימין התענית ליום ה' כשחל פורים אחד בשבת מפרש שם מפני שאין יכול לקובעו בע"ש מפני שהן טרודין לטרוח בכבוד שבת


(1) Yes, I am familiar with Rabbenu Tam (cited in Rishonim to Megillah 2a), but that does not seem to be historically correct, and it is contradicted by the Yerushalmi. Yes I am familiar with the Sh'iltot, but that is a later addition.

(2) Yes, I know he was from Languedoc. (Its close enough).

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The answer would be that the days that we fast on Friday are days that fall on Friday normally. Once the fast is being moved, then we do not move it to Erev Shabbat, because of the conflict with Shabbat. Since we are moving it anyway, we move it to Thursday.

HALACHAS (LAWS) OF FAST OF ESTHER

If the 13th falls on Shabbat, we don't fast that day, due to the honor of Shabbat. The fast is not even held on Friday, since this would adversely affect Shabbat preparations. Rather, we observe the fast on Thursday, the 11th of Adar.

Chabad.org adds

Normally, when a fast falls on Shabbat, we delay the fast until Sunday—but Purim wouldn't be so festive if we were fasting on that day . . . so instead we fast on the Thursday beforehand. In honor of the Shabbat, we even refrain from fasting on Friday. (If, however, you forget to fast on Thursday, you should fast on Friday.)

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Bais Yosef Orach Chaim 686 quotes Rashi, that there were some righteous people who fasted both on Thursday (with the Community), and on Friday (on their own). Rashi proceeds to call them "Fools". It's a very enlightening Rashi, for he explains that a deed that is only done due to Minhag, you cannot be "Machmir" more than the Minhag. For as that Chumra is not part of the Minhag, there is no benefit in doing it. Think it through clearly.

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    It's a very enlightening Rashi, for he explains that a deed that is only done due to Minhag, you cannot be "Machmir" more than the Minhag Interesting , but not exactly what he says. Rather he says that it is silly to be mahmir for something that is neither biblical nor rabbinic, but a mere minhag:
    – mevaqesh
    Mar 2 '17 at 7:47
  • ואמר רבינו תענית זה אינו לא מדברי תורה ולא מדברי סופרים אלא מנהג בעלמא ...ויש מהפרושים שמתענין עם הצבור יום חמישי וחוזרים ומתענין יום ששי כדי לסמוך התענית לפורים ורבי קרא עליהם הכסיל בחושך הולך דכל עצמו של תענית אינו אלא מנהג ומחמיר זה במקומו כאילו הוא קבוע מן התורה וכיון שנהגו רבים להתענות בחמישי דיינו בכך
    – mevaqesh
    Mar 2 '17 at 7:47

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