Who is obligated and who is exempt from fasting

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Who is obligated to fast and who is exempt from the fast:[1] 

Everyone must fast on a Taanis Tzibur, and it is forbidden to be Poretz Geder.[2] [This includes men and women.[3]] This obligation to fast is due to custom, however from the letter of the law, the Sages[4] established all the fasts, other than Tisha B’av, as obligatory only in a time of danger.[5] Practically, today, even in a time of peace, all the four fasts are obligatory, until the coming of Moshiach.[6] Nonetheless, the Sages made a number of exceptions in their decree, such as for the sick, and for pregnant and nursing woman.

 

Sick or weak fasting on Shiva Asar Betamuz:

Must one fast if he is sick:[7] One who is sick is exempt from fasting, [and is even prohibited to be stringent upon himself to fast[8]].[9] This applies even if there is no danger involved in his illness.[10] He is not required to make up the fast on a later date when he feels healthy.[11]

One who is not sick but is weak: One who is weak is not required to fast if he receives a medical order from a doctor that the fast is detrimental to his health.[12] He is not required to make up the fast on a later date when he feels healthy.[13] If the fast causes one to become extremely weak, more than the average person, some Poskim[14] rule he is considered like a sick person and is not required to fast. 

One who is not sick but is in pain: One who is not sick must fast even if he is experiencing a great amount of pain.[15] However, some Poskim[16] rule one may be lenient if he is in a great amount of pain.

One who is traveling:[17] If one feels healthy he must fast even if he is traveling that day.

 

Q&A

How sick must a person be to be exempt from the fast?

One must be sick enough that he feels weak in his entire body due to the illness, or is bedridden.[18]

Taanis Nidche:[19] If the fast fell on Shabbos and was hence differed to Sunday, one may be lenient even if he is a slightly sick, and is not bedridden.

 

Must an old or weak person fast?[20]

An old person, or a person who is weak, is not to fast on Taanis Esther or on any of the three Rabbinical fasts.[21] Practically however one may not be lenient unless he receives a medical order from a doctor that the fast is detrimental to him.

 

May one take medicine on a fast day?[22]

If one is sick, then he is not required to fast, as explained above. Even if one is not sick, it is permitted to take medicine if the medicine is bitter. He is to swallow it without water or alternatively place something bitter in the water and use this bitter water to help swallow the pill. [If one is unable to do so, then the medicine may be taken with regular water if the person will fall sick if he does not take it.[23]]

 

Pregnant or after birth:

Must a pregnant or nursing woman fast?[24] Pregnant[25] and nursing[26] women are exempt from fasting.[27] This applies even if they do not experience pain in fasting, nevertheless, they are not obligated to fast.[28] Nevertheless, the custom of pregnant and nursing women is to be stringent to fast[29], unless they experience great pain [or feel weak[30]] in which case they are not to fast.[31] They are likewise not required to make up the fast at a later date. [32] [Practically, the widespread custom today is that pregnant and nursing women do not fast any of the fasts other than Tisha B’av and Yom Kippur, as they are all considered weak and in pain.[33] They are also not required to make up the fast at a later date.[34]]

Women after birth:[35] According to all opinions, a woman within 30 days of giving birth does not need to fast.

May a pregnant or nursing woman eat like a normal day?[36] Although pregnant and nursing women are exempt from fasting, nevertheless, it is proper for them not to eat with intent to have pleasure from food and drink, but rather simply for the sake of the child.[37] [Accordingly, they are to avoid eating meat and drinking wine, unless they are weak and need it for their strength.[38]]

 

Q&A

From what stage in pregnancy is a pregnant woman exempt from fasting?[39]

A pregnant woman who is in pain[40] is exempt from fasting starting from the 41st day of her pregnancy. If she feels weak or in great pain then she may be lenient even prior to 40 days. If she does not feel weak or any pain at all then she is required to fast if she has not yet entered her second trimester.

 

Must a woman who had a miscarriage fast?[41]

No, if she miscarried after 40 days of conception.

 

Must a woman within two years of birth fast?

Some Poskim[42] rule that all women within 24 months after birth [child is less than 2 years old] are defined as nursing women, even if they are not actually nursing anymore. Other Poskim[43] however are stringent for any woman who does not nurse in actuality, to fast.

 

Must a pregnant or nursing woman try to fast for a few hours in the morning prior to breaking their fast?[44]

No. They may eat immediately in the morning.

 

Children:

All children that are above the age of Bar or Bas Mitzvah are obligated to fast.[45] All children below the age of Bar or Bas Mitzvah are not required to fast any of the four Rabbinical fasts.[46] One is not even required to educate the child to fast for a certain number of hours into the day.[47] Some Poskim[48] however rule that a child who has reached the age of understanding the mourning[49] is only to be allowed to eat bread and water or other simple staple food. The custom however is not like this opinion.[50] [However they are not to be given sweets and the like although one is not required to stop them from eating it if they are in the midst of doing so.[51]

 

If a child turned Bar/Bas Mitzvah on a fast day that is Nidche from Shabbos to Sunday, must the child fast on Sunday?[52]

  • If the 3rd of Tishrei, 17th of Tammuz, or 9th of Av fell on Shabbos and was postponed to Sunday, and a child turned Bar/Bas Mitzvah on Sunday, must they fats on Sunday?

Some Poskim[53] rule the child is not obligated to fast.[54] Other Poskim[55] rule the child is obligated to fast on Sunday.[56] Practically, the child is to fast unless they are weak and doing so is greatly difficult.[57]

 

General Q&A

Must one who needs to eat or drink only take the minimal measurements “Shiurim” as required on Yom Kippur?

Some Poskim[58] rule one is required to follow the same eating and drinking measurements “Shiurim” prescribed on Yom Kippur. Other Poskim[59] however rule it is not necessary. Practically, the custom is not to follow this opinion, and hence one who is permitted to eat or drink may do so without limitation.[60]

 

Must a Chasan and Kallah within the 7 days of Sheva Brachos fast?[61]

Yes. Even if it is the day of their wedding, they must fast until nightfall.[62]

Taanis Nidcheh: When a fast day falls on Shabbos and was hence pushed off to Sunday, some Poskim[63] rule a Chasan is required to fast the entire day as usual even if he is within the seven days of Sheva Brachos. Other Poskim[64] however rule he is not required to fast until nightfall, and is rather to fast until midday [until after Mincha with Aneinu]. Practically one who is weak may be lenient.[65] Likewise, if it is the day of their wedding, they may eat and drink immediately after the Chupah.[66]

 

May one who is not required to fast eat like a normal day?[67]

If one is not fasting that day, such as a pregnant or nursing woman, it is proper to diminish somewhat in eating and drinking in order to participate in the day of oppression followed by the community. Accordingly, they are to avoid eating meat and drinking wine, unless they are weak and need it for their strength.[68]

 

May one who is not required to fast eat in public?[69]

If the reason for their exemption is not readily apparent, they are not to eat or drink in public.

 

Should one who is exempt from fasting redeem the fast with a donation towards charity?[70]

It is proper to do so.

 

Must one who is exempt from fasting try to fast for a few hours in the morning prior to breaking their fast?[71]

No. They may eat immediately in the morning.

 

Must a soldier in the army fast?

If he is not involved that day in any military operation or warfare then he must fast like everyone else. If however he is taking part in a military operation then he must eat in order to have strength.

 

May a kosher restaurant open on a fast day?[72]

Yes. However, they may only sell food to Jews who do not have to fast.[73]

 

May one touch foods on a fast day?[74]

It is permitted to touch food on a fast day, even unnecessarily.[75]

___________________________________________________

[1] 550:1

[2] Michaber ibid; Tur ibid; Ramban in Toras Hadam

[3] Some Chassidishe Sefarim record that all women today who are of child rearing age are not to fast the four fasts, other than Tisha B’av and Yom Kippur. [See Tzevi Tiferes of Munktach 48 in name of Shinover Rav, as a tradition of Tzadikim of previous generations; Derech Tzadikim 5:44; Piskei Teshuva Divrei Chachamim 8 in name of Kotzker; Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:1 footnote 5] Practically, however, the widespread custom is not to be lenient, and so is the custom in Lubavitch.

[4] Rosh Hashanah 18, brought in Machatzios Hashekel 550:1

[5] M”A 550:1

[6] Beis Yosef 550; Maggid Mishneh Taanis 5; Rishonim and Poskim brought in Machatzios Hashekel 550:1

[7] Michaber 554:6 regarding Tishe Be’av; Rama 686:2 [regarding Taanis Esther]; Chayeh Adam 133:6; M”B 550:4; Kaf Hachaim 550:7

[8] M”B ibid; Kaf Hachaim ibid

[9] The reason: As the Sages did not institute the fast for those who are sick [Michaber ibid]

[10] Chayeh Adam 133:6; M”B 550:4; See Q&A for definition of sick

[11] See Rama 686:2; M”B 686:5; Shaareiy Tziyon 586:11; Kaf Hachaim 686:22

[12] Ruach Chaim 550:1; Kaf Hachaim 550:6; However without a direct medical directive he is not to be lenient. [ibid]

[13] See Rama 686:2; M”B 686:5; Shaareiy Tziyon 586:11; Kaf Hachaim 686:22

[14] Ashel Avraham Tinyana 550; Igros Moshe 4:114

[15] See Rama 686:2 and Kaf Hachaim 686:17 who implies the leniency of pain is only by Taanis Esther, and so suggests also Biur Halacha 550:1 “Mihu”; Kaf Hachaim ibid writes that according to those who rule the fast is an obligation certainly one who is in mere pain may not be lenient to eat, unless he is sick, just as is the law by the other four mandatory fasts of scripture.

[16] Biur Halacha ibid in name of Kovetz on Rambam; Ashel Avraham Tinyana 550; Sdei Chemed Mareches Bein Hametzarim 1:13; Daas Torah 550; Nitei Gavriel 5:7; See also Igros Moshe 4:114

[17] M”A 668:4 brought in M”B 686:6

[18] As this is considered a Choleh Sheiyn Bo Sakana, mentioned in M”B 550:4; and so is implied also from Aruch Hashulchan 550:7; and Hagahos Rav Akiva Eiger 559:9; See however Aruch Hashulchan 554:7 that this applies even if he is not bedridden; See Nitei Gavriel 5:4 in name of Maharam Bent 550 that even if he is slightly ill one may be lenient

[19] So rules regarding even Tisha B’av Nidche: Shvus Yaakov 3:37; Hagahos Rav Akiva Eiger 559:9; Nitei Gavriel 5:9

[20] Kaf Hachaim 550:6 in name of Ruach Chaim 550:1

[21] The reason: As they are no different than a pregnant or nursing woman who is exempt from fasting. [Kaf Hachaim ibid]

[22] Beir Heiytiv 567:7 in name of Dvar Shmuel; Halachos Ketanos 97; Kaf Hachaim 554:34 in name of Kesonos Yosef 4; Ikarei Hadaat 29:36; Tosefes Chaim on Chayeh Adam 1:135-8; Pischei Olam 554:6; Piskeiy Teshuvos 554:7; 567:3; See also regaridng Yom Kippur: Sdei Chemed Yom Kippur 3:8; Yeshuos Yaakov 612; Kesav Sofer 111; Pischeiy Teshuvah Y.D. 155:6; Shoel Umeishiv Mahdura Daled 1:55; Orchos Chaim 618:1; Eretz Tzevi 88; Igros Moshe 3:91; Tzitz Eliezer 10:25; SSH”K 39:8; Nishmas Avraham 612:7; Piskeiy Teshuvos 612:2; Nitei Gavriel 37:23; 39:12-15

[23] Igros Moshe 3:91; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid

[24] Rama 550:1

[25] See Q&A regarding from which month this begins

[26] Some Poskim rule that all women within 24 months after birth [child is less than 2 years old] are defined as nursing women, even if they are not actually nursing anymore. [Daas Torah 550; Ashel Avraham Tinyana 550:1; Alef Hamagen 3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:1; See Nitei Gavriel Bein Hametzarim 5:1 footnote 1] See however Nitei Gavriel ibid for Rabbanim who disagree with this ruling.

[27] Michaber 554:5; Rama ibid; Hagahos Maimanis; Maggid Mishneh Taanis 5

The reason: As it is greatly painful for them to fast. [Rama ibid] See P”M 550 A”A 2 that ideally, they are obligated to fast all four fasts, and it is only today that the fasts are due to a custom [as explained above that in times of peace it is not obligatory] that pregnant and nursing woman don’t have to fast, as they never accepted upon themselves this custom.

[28] Rama ibid; Siddur Yaavetz

[29] Rama ibid; M”A 550:2 that there is no prohibition for them to fast on a Taanis Tzibur Kavua being that everyone accepted the fast upon themselves, although by a Taanis for Geshamim its forbidden for them to fast, as rules Rama 575:5

[30] M”B 550:5

[31] Rama ibid; See Rama 575:5 that it is forbidden for them to fast; See M”A 550:2; Seemingly, if they do not feel well, it is forbidden for them to fast even a Taanis Tzibur Kavua, as it is detrimental for the child. However, see P”M 550 A”A 2 in explanation of M”A ibid, who implies even if they are in great pain, they may be stringent to fast. Vetzaruch Iyun.

[32] M”B 686:5; Kaf Hachaim 686:22 regarding Taanis Esther and the same would apply regarding the four fasts; See however M”B ibid in name of the Bach.

[33] See Makor Chaim of Chavos Yair 550 “No need to be stringent at all”; Siddur Yaavetz “They are exempt even if they are not feeling pain, and if they want they could be stringent”; Orchos Chaim of Spinka 550:4, in name of Yifei Lalev, in name of Bashamayim Rosh 91, and Teshuva Meahava that they are weak and have pain; Ashel Avraham Butchach 686 Mahadurah Tinyana; Hisorerus Teshuvah 1:6; Divreiy Yatziv 2:291; Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:1; 686:3 that so is the ruling of today’s Rabbanim.

[34] M”B 686:5; Kaf Hachaim 686:22 regarding Taanis Esther and the same would apply regarding the four fasts; See however M”B ibid in name of the Bach.

[35] See M”B 686:4; Kaf Hachaim 686:19

[36] Michaber 554:5; Ashel Avraham 686 Mahadurah Tinyana; Chayeh Adam 133:6; M”B 550:5; Kaf Hachaim 550:7

[37] The reason: This is done in order to participate in the day of oppression followed by the community. [Ashel Avraham 686 Mahadurah Tinyana]

[38] M”B 550:5; See Seder Hayom Inyanei Bein Hametzarim; Piskeiy Teshuvos 5508

[39] M”B 550:3; Kaf Hachaim 550:5; Mor Uketzia 550; Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:1; Nitei Gavriel Bein Hametzarim 5

Background:

The M”B ibid rules that seemingly she is considered pregnant starting from the 4th month and onwards, however possibly she is considered pregnant even starting from the 41st day if she feels pain. However, if she is pregnant for less than 40 days she is considered like any other woman that must fast unless she is in great pain. He then concludes that if she feels weakness she is not to be stringent at all. The Kaf Hachaim ibid however writes this ruling a little differently: He writes that if she is in great pain she may be lenient from the 41st day, however prior to 40 days she must fast even if she is in great pain. 

[40] See Background!

[41] Yechaveh Daas, brought in Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:1; There he brings that they are exempt from fasting for a full 24 months after the miscarriage just like a woman who gave birth.

[42] Daas Torah 550 based on Y.D. 189; Kneses Yechezkal 71:30; Ashel Avraham Tinyana 550:1; Alef Hamagen 3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:1; See Nitei Gavriel Bein Hametzarim 5:1 footnote 1]

[43] See Nitei Gavriel ibid for Rabbanim who disagree with this ruling; Rav Yaakov Yosef in name of Rav Bentzion Aba Shaul negated the above opinions

[44] Avnei Nezer 540; Orchos Chaim 550:3 in name of Shut Ramatz; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:1-2 and footnote 2

[45] Admur 616:9; Elya Raba 549:7; Kaf Hachaim 550:1; Biur Halacha 550 “Hakol Chayavim”

Two hairs: The above law only applies if the child has reached puberty which means that he or she has grown two pubic hairs. If the child has reached this age but does not have two pubic hairs, then although he or she must keep all the commands out of doubt that perhaps he or she grew the hairs and they fell off, nevertheless the child is not required to fast any of the Rabbinical fasts. [Admur ibid; M”A 616:3; Elya Raba 616 [unlike ruling in 550]; P”M 616 A”A 3 [unlike ruling in 550]; M”B 616:13 [unlike ruling in 550]; See Shevet Halevi 6:122; Beir Moshe 8:96; Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:5 that the ruling in 616 is the letter of the law while the ruling in 550 is the custom. Accordingly, even according to Admur there is room for them to fast, according to the custom. Vetzaruch Iyun]

Other Poskim: Some Poskim rule the child must fast even the Rabbinical fasts once he or she reaches 13:12 even if the child has not yet grown two hairs. [Elya Raba 550:7 [unlike ruling in 616]; P”M 550 A”A 2 [unlike ruling in 616]; Biur Halacha 550 “Hakol” [unlike ruling in 616]; Kaf Hachaim ibid]

[46] Admur 616:9; M”A 550:2; Elya Raba 550:7; P”M 550 A”A 2; M”B 550:5; Biur Halacha 550 “Hakol Chayavim”; Kaf Hachaim 550:1

[47] Chayeh Adam 133:6; M”B ibid; Kaf Hachaim 550:9; Piskeiy Teshuvos 550 footnote 10

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule that children [of nine years old] are to be educated to fast for a few hours into the day just as is the law on Yom Kippur as rules Admur 616:5. [Erech Hashulchan 554:2 and Beis Hillel brought in Kaf Hachaim 554:23; Chanoch Lenaar 21 footnote 9; Beir Moshe 8:98; Piskeiy Teshuvos 554:9]

[48] M”A 550:2; Rameh 111; P”M 549 A”A 7; Chayeh Adam ibid; M”B ibid; brought in Kaf Hachaim 549:8 and 550:9

[49] Some write this is starting from age nine. [See Piskeiy Teshuvos 550 footnote 11]

[50] Birkeiy Yosef 549:1; Daas Torah; Kaf Hachaim 549:8 and 550:9; Beir Moshe 8:95

[51] Beir Moshe ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:3

[52] See Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:4

[53] Avnei Nezer 426; Kinyan Torah 3:71; 460

[54] The reason: As the fast is merely a Tashlumin for Shabbos, and on Shabbos they were still children and not yet obligated. [Poskim ibid]

[55] Maharsham 3:363; Divrei Malkiel 5:130; Tzafnas Paneiach 44; Shevet Halevi 4:72; 6:70-71; Lehoros Nasan 5:36; Beir Moshe 8:20-21; Even Yisrael 7:26;

[56] The reason: As the fast is not Tashlumin [See Rashba 1:520] and even if it is Tashlumin, the child was only exempt due to weakness, and was not truly exempt on Shabbos. [Maharsham ibid]

[57] Shearim Hametzuyanim Behalacha 124:7; Tzitz Eliezer 9:27; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid

[58] Tzemach Tzedek O.C. 108:110; Divrei Nechemia 42; Sefer Haminhagim p. 92 [English] regarding all four fasts and in footnote 342 even regarding Taanis Esther; Halachos Ketanos 2:100; Mahrahm Shick 289; Shaiy Lamorah 4; Marcheshes 1:14; Biur Halacha 554 “Bemakom” in name of Pischeiy Olam

[59] Chida in Machazik Bracha, brought in Kaf Hachaim 554:31; Mahrahm Shick 290; Avnei Nezer 540; Aruch Hashulchan 554:7

[60] Shevet Halevi 4:56; Kinyan Torah 1:118; Tzitz Eliezer 10:25-16; Shraga Hameir 1:59; Piskeiy Teshuvos 554:9; Hiskashrus 889 that so he received from several Rabbanei Anash, despite the ruling in Sefer Haminhagim ibid

Some suggest the entire reason behind the Shiurim recorded in the previous Poskim who are stringent is order to also gain the advantage of being considered to have fasted, and hence be able to count for a Minyan for Kerias Hatorah, and saying Aneinu and the like, however not that one is required to follow these Shiurim. [See Hiskashrus ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid and 566:6; Marcheshes ibid]

[61] M”A 550:6; Ritva Taanis; Peri Hadamah 4:41; Kesones Yosef 5; Beis Yehuda 31; Birkeiy Yosef 549:2; Kaf Hachaim 549:9; M”B 550:12; Biur Halacha 549 “Chayavim”; Maharil Diskin Kuntrus Acharon 74

The reason: As the mourning of the public differs the Holiday of an individual. [Ritva ibid]

Other Poskim: Some Poskim are lenient in this matter and rule a Chasan is not required to fast, as his Yom Tov is greater than the Yom Tov of Mila and hence pushes off Aveilus. [Beis David 476 brought in Kaf Hachaim ibid; Kneses Hagedola 559; Ben Ish Chaiy Shoftim 17]

[62] M”A ibid

Other opinions: Some Poskim imply it is permitted to drink as soon as the Chupah concludes. [M”A 559:11 in name of Maharash Halevi; However, see Degul Urevava 550 who says perhaps he is referring to a Taanis Nidche.]

[63] M”A 559:11 in name of Kneses Hagedola, Radbaz 2:35, and Maharash Halevi, brought in Shaar HaTziyon 559:34; Ruach Chaim; Likkutei Maharich; Biur Halacha 559 “Venidche”; Shevet Halevi 6:70

[64] Beis Yehuda 31; Yeshuos Yaakov 559:5; Avnei Nezer 427; Biur Halacha 549 “Chayavim”; Shaar HaTziyon 559:34 in name of Beis Yehuda brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah; Yabia Omer 1:34; 5:40

[65] Nitei Gavriel 79:2; Piskeiy Teshuvos 549:2 in name of Rav Moshe Halbershtam

[66] M”A 559:11 in name of Mahrash Halevi; P”M 550 A”A 6; Degul Merivava 550; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 549 footnote 12

Other opinions: Some Poskim imply it is permitted to drink as soon as the Chupah concludes. [M”A 559:11 in name of Maharash Halevi; However, see Degul Urevava 550 who says perhaps he is referring to a Taanis Nidche.]

[67] Michaber 554:5 regarding pregnant and nursing women; Ashel Avraham 686 Mahadurah Tinyana; Chayeh Adam 133:6; M”B 550:5; Kaf Hachaim 550:7

[68] M”B 550:5; See Seder Hayom Inyanei Bein Hametzarim; Piskeiy Teshuvos 5508

[69] Shaareiy Efraim 1:10; Minchas Elazar 3:3 based on Eiruvin 41a; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:265; Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:2

[70] Mateh Efraim 602:23

[71] Avnei Nezer 540; Orchos Chaim 550:3 in name of Shut Ramatz; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 550:1-2 and footnote 2

[72] Piskeiy Teshuvos 549:1; Yalkut Yosef Moadim p. 530

[73] The reason: It is forbidden to sell food to Jews who transgress the fast due to the prohibition of Lifnei Iver, as since all the Kosher restaurants are Jewish owned, it is considered Kitrei Avri Denihara. [See Beis Shlomo 38; Maharsham 6:11]

[74] Admur 611:9; M”A 612:6; Rama 612:10

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is forbidden to touch food unnecessarily during a fast day, lest one come to eat the food. [P”M 612 M”Z 8 based on Taz 612:8 who explains the reason it is permitted to do so on Yom Kippur is because “Eimas Hadin Alav”; Kaf Hachaim 612:56; Piskeiy Teshuvos 549:1] However according Admur and M”A ibid, who rule the reason it is permitted on Yom Kippur is because the Sages did not suspect one will come to eat being that one is fasting the whole day, the same would apply to all fasts.

[75] The reason: As since one refrains from eating any food that entire day, he will not come to accidently eat the food that he touches, unlike the law of Chametz on Pesach. [Admur ibid]

Making food: The above law in 611:9 is regarding touching food, however in 611:7 and 9 Admur rules regarding Yom Kippur that one may not make food lest he come to eat it. Vetzaruch Iyun if this stringency applies during the four fasts, as learns the P”M ibid. Practically the custom is to be lenient. 

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