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Jewesses with Attitude

Fast of Esther and Marriage Enslavement

Today is Ta’anit Esther (the Fast of Esther), a minor Fast day commemorating the three day fast observed by the Jewish people in the story of Purim. The fast originated at the request of Queen Esther who prepared to risk her life by going before the King to reveal herself as a Jewess and plead survival for her people, bravely stating: "and if I perish, I perish." Ta’anit Esther is the only time in the Jewish calendar that wholly commemorates the power of a single woman to exercise courage in changing the course of Jewish history.

It is interesting to look at how Ta’anit Esther has taken on new, contemporary meaning in some Jewish circles and has become re-ritualized in order to understand the experience of freedom and survival (or lack thereof) in today’s Jewish world.

The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) has used Ta’anit Esther to call attention to the plight of agunot, women who are unable to get a divorce because their husbands refuse to grant them a get (divorce certificate). This has been a long-standing problem in the Jewish community, particularly in the Orthodox world in which women’s autonomy is often stifled.

Learn more about JOFA’s Agunot Advocacy Campaign and about what you can do to spread awareness about this crisis.

How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "Fast of Esther and Marriage Enslavement." 1 March 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 16, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/TaanitEsther>.

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