Esther, Fast of

Esther, Fast Of (תִּעֲנַית אֶסתֵּר) so called from the fact that it was ordered by Esther to avert the impending destruction which at that time threatened the whole Jewish population of the Persian dominions (comp. Es 4:16-17). The Jews to this day keep this fast on the 13th of Adar, the day which was appointed for their extirpation, and which precedes the feast of Purim, because it was ordained both by Esther and Mordecai, that it should continue a national fast, to be observed annually in commemoration of that eventful day (comp. Es 9:31). During the Maccabaean period, and for some time afterwards, this fast was temporarily superseded by a festival which was instituted to celebrate the anniversary of the victory obtained by Judas Maccabaeus over Nicanor on the 13th of Adar (comp. 1 Macc. 7:49; Josephus, Ant. 12:10, 5; Megillath Taranith, c. 12; Josippon ben-Gorion, 3:22, page 244, ed. Breithaupt). But this festival has long since ceased to be celebrated, and as early as the ninth century of the Christian aera we find that the fast of Esther was again duly observed (comp. Sheelthoth of R. Achai, Purim 4), and it has continued ever since to be one of the fasts in the Jewish calendar. The Jews entirely abstain from eating and drinking on this day, and introduce into the daily service penitential psalms, and offer prayers which have been composed especially for this occasion. If the 13th of Adar happens to be on a Sabbath, this fast is kept on the Friday, because fasting is not allowed on the Sabbath day. Some Jews go so far as to fast three days, according to the example of Esther (Es 4:6). SEE CALENDAR, JEWISH.

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