Taanis Esther Questions
Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah
Question: Must women fast on Ta’anis Esther?
Discussion: Men and women are equally obligated to fast on Ta’anis Esther.98 However, since this fast is of a more lenient nature than other fasts, certain leniencies apply.99
For example, pregnant women, women after birth, and nursing mothers need not fast on Ta’anis Esther. A woman after childbirth is exempt from fasting on Ta’anis Esther for 24 months, even if she is not nursing.100 And a nursing mother is exempt at any point.
Question: After the fast, is one allowed to eat or drink before the Megillah reading?
Discussion: Although the fast itself ends at nightfall, it is forbidden to eat or drink before hearing the Megillah107 – regardless of whether one fasted or not.108
Lechatchilah, one should not eat or drink at all before hearing the Megillah. However, when this will be particularly difficult, one may have what the Poskim define as a “taste” rather than a substantial meal109 (as will be defined shortly). A “taste” includes up to a kebeitzah110 of bread or other baked goods (cakes, pastries etc.); or even any amount of other foods such as fruit, meat, fish, cheese, or even cooked grains such as pasta.111 A “taste” similarly includes any amount of a non-alcoholic beverage; or an alcoholic beverage up to the volume of a kebeitzah.112 This allowance may be utilized, for example, by one who is not feeling well, or finds it particularly difficult to continue fasting, or will not be able to hear the Megillah yet for a long time after the fast has ended.113
If one is unwell, and a mere “taste” will not suffice, he may eat even a proper meal – i.e., even more than a kebeitzah of bread.114
Question: Is it also prohibited to eat on Purim morning before hearing the Megillah?
Discussion: Yes. The rules for Purim morning are the same as described above regarding Purim evening.115
98 However, certain communities are more lenient with regard to women fasting; see Halichos Shlomo, Bein Hametzarim, Chapter 13, note 16.
99 That is to say, this fast was not instituted by Chazal as an obligatory fast (as are the other fasts of the year); rather, it was originally taken on as a custom. However, once the custom was assumed by the entire Jewish Nation, it is binding, and the individual does not have the right to abandon it.
100 See Rema 686:2, with Mishnah Berurah notes 4 and 5, and Sha’ar Hatziyun note 10; Hilchos Chag Bechag, Chapter 4, note 3*.
107 Rema 692:4.
108 One who is not fasting may not eat from a half an hour before nightfall (Nitei Gavriel, 32:6); see Mishnah Berurah 692, note 15.
109 Mishnah Berurah, 692, note 14.
110 That is, 57-100 cc, depending on differing opinions.
111 Mishnah Berurah, 232, note 34.
112 See Magen Avraham 232, note 17; Mishnah Berurah ad loc. note 35.
113 The Poskim make this point regarding a woman who must stay home with the children while her husband goes to shul to hear the Megillah, and will only be able to hear the Megillah at a later time (Halichos Bas Yisrael, 22:6; Hilchos Purim, Chapter 3, note 66).
114 Mishnah Berurah 692, note 16, with Sha’ar Hatziyun 29. One who does eat a proper meal for this reason, should ask someone to make sure to remind him to hear the Megillah afterwards (Mishnah Berurah ibid.).
115 Mishnah Berurah (ibid., note 15). However, Teshuvos Vehanhagos (III:221) rules that one who is accustomed to having a cup of tea or coffee upon waking up in the morning may do so on Purim as well (see there for his distinction between night and day in this regard; and see there further that others disagree with this leniency).