Jewish Minor Fast Practices

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During the afternoon service, a haftarah (prophetic reading) from Isaiah 55:6-56:8 is read by the Ashkenazim (Jews of Eastern European descent). It also deals with repentance and God's forgiveness, the redemption of Israel and the world. The Sephardim (Jews of Mediterranean descent) do not read a haftarah on the afternoon of a fast day, except for Tisha B'Av.

None of the four minor fasts may be observed on a Shabbat, which is a day of joy and celebration. Only the major fast of Yom Kippur may take place on Shabbat. If any of the above-mentioned dates falls on Shabbat, the fast is postponed until Sunday. If Purim falls on a Sunday, the Fast of Esther is observed on the preceding Thursday. Fasts that fall on Friday follow the normal practices for the fast. However, this could really only apply to the 10th of Tevet because the arrangement of the calendar does not permit any of the other fasts to occur on Friday.


Among the very few rituals to be followed on a minor fast day is the tradition of giving charity, especially food necessary for the evening meal (Talmud, Sanhedrin 35a). The notion behind this practice is found in the Talmud, which states that the reward of a fast day is in the amount of charity distributed (Berakhot 6b).

It is important to note that Reform Jews traditionally only fasted on Yom Kippur, and the other fast days were only vaguely known or observed among Reform Jews. The reasons for this included a distinctive approach to Jewish tradition and halakhah (Jewish ritual law), and as an ambivalent attitude toward commemoration of the destruction of the Temple and hopes for its restoration. There has in recent years been a renewed attention toward the major fast day of Tisha B'Av, although the minor fasts continue to not play an important role in Reform observance.

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