Thursday, March 01, 2007

Taanit Esther

There is a discussion in Mahzor Vitry of a calendrical situation like this year, when Purim is observed (outside of Jerusalem) on Sunday. The question is when to observe the fast that usually precedes Purim, known as Taanit Esther. Fasting on Shabbat was an issue in the ninth century (as reflected in Megillat Ahima'atz), but by the eleventh it was probably agreed that you don't fast on Shabbat. Rashi (presumably he is the person referred to in Mahzor Vitry as R) dealt with two responses to this situation. The discussion was reproduced in Elfenbein's collection of Rashi's responsa, number 128.

First, a woman asked him whether she could postpone the fast to the following day, Friday. She She needed to ride to a meeting with a noble on Thursday, and fasting that day would be extremely difficult. Rashi responded that, though it is not a normal public fast day, it is nevertheless a communal custom, and therefore one should not break away from the community and observe a different date. Unclear what the woman should do - perhaps it was better that she not fast at all than that she observe the fast on her own date.

Second, he turned his guns on the "prushim", zealots, who would fast on both Thursday and Friday. About them, Rashi would invoke the verse "And the fool shall walk in darkness". They did not retain the proper distinction between biblically ordained commandments and customs. Most people observe the fast on Thursday, and that's good enough.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

See more: "תענית אסתר ועשרה בטבת שחלו להיות בערב שבת", בתוך: ד' שפרבר, מנהגי ישראל, ד, ירושלים תשנ"ה, עמ' רי-רכ.

2:19 AM  

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