Menachem Mendel

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Fasting on the Minor Fast Days

When addressing the parameters of fasting on one of the minor fast days, we read in the Gemara on Rosh ha-Shannah 18b:

אמר רב חנא בר ביזנא אמר רב שמעון חסידא: מאי דכתיב (זכריה ×—) ×›×” אמר ×”’ צבאות צום הרביעי וצום החמישי וצום השביעי וצום העשירי ×™×”×™×” לבית יהודה לששון ולשמחה. קרי להו צום, וקרי להו ששון ושמחה, בזמן שיש שלום יהיו לששון ולשמחה, אין שלום צום. אמר רב פפא: ×”×›×™ קאמר: בזמן שיש שלום יהיו לששון ולשמחה, יש שמד צום, אין שמד ואין שלום, רצו מתענין, רצו אין מתענין.

R. Hanah b. Bizna has said in the name of R. Simeon the Saint: ‘What is the meaning of the verse, Thus said the Lord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness? The prophet calls these days both days of fasting and days of joy, signifying that when there is peace they shall be for joy and gladness, but if there is not peace they shall be fast days’! — R. Papa replied: What it means is this: When there is peace they shall be for joy and gladness; if there is persecution, they shall be fast days; if there is no persecution but yet not peace, then those who desire may fast and those who desire need not fast.

Since the establishment of the state of Israel there has been much discussion about the status of the minor fasts, in addition to discussion about the fast of Tisha B’av itself. For some discussion see here, here, and here, and Benny Lau’s chapter in this book. (Hebrew)

Musings of a Jewish Bookseller has posted a very interesting document from fifty years before the establishment of Israel.

Above are photos of a fascinating handwritten sign I just acquired. Apparently, it was hung in the synagogue in Timisoara, Romania, dated 1896. The writer, the Av Bet Din of the town, quoting a Magen Avraham, states that at any time in History, that we are living in peace, there is no need to fast any of the Rabbinic fasts. “I want to let the members of my holy congregation know, that you are now exempt, in our great motherland, the land of our birth and the pride of our religion, from fasting on these days”

The author of the post adds:

History has proven though, that his patriotism was a bit premature. A half century later, his neighbors did not resit when the entire community was deported to the camps.

See the original post for a picture of the original document.

I would add that today there is a small Jewish community in Timisoara whose web site can be seen here.

3 Responses to “Fasting on the Minor Fast Days”

  1. 1

    Intresante. However, if one is to say that the av beis din was wrong because of what happened 50 years later, then by that standard the fast days can NEVER change. Because no one can know what the future will hold. Indeed, the totality of the glory days of the Jewish people, when we had soverignety, unity, and the Temple, was only during the reign of Solomon. About 5 minutes of history, relatively speaking.

  2. 2

    What’s interesting is that the Magen Avraham quoted (in OH 550) is commenting on why we still need to fast, *despite* the fact that from the letter of the law it’s not required. It’s funny the rabbi in question didn’t quote the last words of the Magen Avraham, מ”מ כיון שנהגו להתענות כלם אסור לפרוץ גדר. I wonder who this rabbi was?

  3. 3
    Menachem Mendel (Michael P.):


    His name is on the document, although I wouldn’t know anything about him.




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