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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.

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3 Comments

Thank you for making me aware of this women-centered Jewish tradition. I had never heard of TaÌ¢‰â‰ã¢anit Esther prior to reading your post. In Hebrew School, I remember learning about a number of fasts that were for men only or dedicated to specific men, but I don't recall a fast in commemoration of EstherÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s braveryÌ¢‰âÂå_ And now, youÌ¢‰â‰ã¢ve sparked my curiosity.

Where can I find more information on TaÌ¢‰â‰ã¢anit Esther?

There is also an organization called JACADA founded here in Washington that is very active in the areas of domestic violence and Agunot. They are headed by a member of our shul and do remarkable work. All the contact info is on the site.

This was the first year that I fasted on Ta'anit Esther, and I did so mainly as an act of solidarity with agunot. I think that JOFA's campaign is really important for spreading awareness about the "plight of agunot". Thank you for posting a link to JOFA's site and acknowledging this critical campaign.

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How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "Fast of Esther and Marriage Enslavement." 1 March 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 20, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/taanitesther>.

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