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How are the Jewish fast days observed?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Holidays » Fast Days | Subscribe | What is RSS?


The most noticeable observance of a fast day is the abstention from food and drink. On a deeper level, a fast day is an auspicious day; a day when G-d is close and waiting for us to repent.

[The following basic fast-day rules apply to all fast days aside for Yom Kippur, Tishah B'Av and the Fast of the Firstborn. These three fasts have their own rules. See What is Yom Kippur? What is forbidden on Tishah B'Av? What are the customary Tishah B'Av observances? What and when is the Fast of the Firstborn?]

  • The fast day begins at dawn (72 minutes before sunrise) and ends at nightfall (see here for exact times). Between these hours, it is forbidden for any adult above bar or bat Mitzvah to consume food or drink.
  • Pregnant and nursing women do not have to fast on this day. Someone who is ill should consult a rabbi. Even those who are exempt from fasting, such as ill people or children, shouldn’t indulge in delicacies or sweets on this day.
  • It is permitted to wake up early before the fast begins to grab a bite—provided that before going to sleep, the person had in mind to wake up and eat. 
  • During the Shacharit prayers we recite Selichot (elegies). The selichot are printed in the back of the Siddur. The “long Avinu Malkeinu” is also recited both by Shacharit and Minchah.
  • The Torah is taken out of the Ark and read during the Shacharit and Minchah prayers. After the reading of the Torah at Minchah, a special fast-day Haftorah is read.
  • During the Amidah of the Minchah prayer, all those who are actually fasting add a small section, the aneinu, to the Shema Koleinu blessing.  


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Tefillin on Fast Days

Posted by: Anonymous on Jan 10, 2006

Do most communities wear Tefillin on Fast Days?

Editor's Comment

Tefillin are worn -- by all Jewish communities -- on all Fast Days. The exceptions are Yom Kippur, when tefillin is not worn, and Tisha b'Av, when (tallit and) tefillin are donned in the afternoon.
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Morning prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Section from the prophetic writings that is read at the conclusion of the Torah reading on the Sabbath, Jewish holidays and fast days. The Haftorah contains a message similar to the weekly reading, or speaks of the current holiday.
The fifth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to July-August. The saddest month of the year due to the destruction of the Temples, and the many other tragedies which befell the Jews in this month.
Prayer book.
Penintential prayers recited before the High Holidays and on Jewish fast days.
Afternoon prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
The most fundamental Jewish prayer, recited twice daily. This prayer, of Biblical origin, professes the belief in G-d's absolute unity.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.