The Proper Time to End a Fast

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July 19 2006

Last week's issue discussed public fasts and the difference between Tisha B'Av and the other fasts. This week's issue will focus on the proper time to end a fast. The article will discuss the ordinary scenario as well as some unusual scenarios.

The Ordinary Scenario

The Gemara, Ta'anit 12a, states that “any fast that does not experience the setting of the sun is not considered a fast.” The implication of the Gemara is that a fast concludes at sundown. This is, in fact, the opinion of Rabbeinu Yonah (cited in Rabbeinu Asher, Shabbat 2:23). However, Rabbeinu Asher, Ta'anit 1:12, rules that the statement “any fast that does not experience the setting of the sun is not considered a fast,” does not refer to sundown but rather to the complete setting of the sun which occurs at tzeit hakochavim (nightfall). Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 562:1, codifies the opinion of Rabbeinu Asher that the fast concludes at nightfall. [See also, Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chaim 562:9, who notes that there are a number of Rishonim who follow the opinion of Rabbeinu Yonah and that one who relies on the lenient opinion “should not be chastised.”]

Shulchan Aruch's opinion notwithstanding, there are two reasons why one might conclude a fast prior to the time one normally concludes Shabbat. First, as noted in a previous issue, there is a dispute between Rabbeinu Tam and the Vilna Gaon regarding the proper time for tzeit hakochavim. According to the Vilna Gaon, tzeit hakochavim occurs shortly after sundown, whereas according to Rabbeinu Tam, tzeit hakochavim does not occur until much later. R. Yitzchak Yosef, Yalkut Yosef 293:4, rules that even those who normally follow the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam (in determining the time of the end of Shabbat) may rely on the opinion of the Vilna Gaon in determining the time of the end of the rabbinic fasts.

Second, according to Rabbeinu Tam, sunset occurs in a two stage process. Astronomical sundown is the beginning of the process. The end of the process occurs a few minutes before Rabbeinu Tam's tzeit hakochavim. R. Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:62, rules that one who is following Rabbeinu Tam and is having difficulty fasting may end the fast at the end of the sunset process which R. Feinstein claims to be nine minutes before tzeit hakochavim.

One Who Travels to a Different Time-Zone

Suppose someone travels east on an airplane to different time-zone on a fast day. The fast will end in his place of arrival a few hours before it ends in his place of departure. Should he conclude the fast together with the people in his place of arrival or should he wait until the conclusion of the fast in his place of departure? The same question can be asked regarding someone who travels west.

R. Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe 3:96, rules that one should always follow the place of arrival, even if it means that the traveler will fast for fewer hours. R. Feinstein states that the same is true for Tisha B'Av and there is no requirement to fast for a full twenty-four hours.

R. Ovadia Hadaya, Yaskil Avdi 8:38, suggests that the public fast of Tisha B'Av concludes at tzeit hakochavim at the place of arrival. However, there is a personal obligation to fast for a twenty-four hour period and that in principle, it should be made up on a different day. Nevertheless, one is not required to begin the twenty-four hour period at sundown of a different day. One can merely continue the fast until twenty-four hours are completed since the tenth of Av is an appropriate day to fast (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 558:1).

Completing a Fast on Erev Shabbat

It is possible to accept a private fast on a Friday. Furthermore, Asarah B'Tevet occasionally occurs on Friday. The question arises: if a fast occurs on a Friday, may one accept Shabbat early and conclude the fast before the proper time?

The Gemara, Eiruvin 40b-41b, has a lengthy discussion regarding whether one should complete a fast that commences on Friday. The Gemara concludes that the “fast is completed.” There are three opinions in the Rishonim regarding the conclusion of the Gemara. First, Tosafot, Eiruvin 41b, s.v. VeHilchita, explain that the conclusion of the Gemara is that it is permissible to complete the fast but it is not obligatory. For this reason, Rabbeinu Yitzchak (cited in Mordechai, Eiruvin no. 494) rules that it is preferable to eat before Shabbat starts so that one does not enter into Shabbat in a state of extreme hunger. He explains that although it is permissible to complete the fast, it is preferable not to complete the fast. Second, Rabbeinu Meir (cited in Mordechai, ibid) is of the opinion that one should complete the fast until the beginning of Shabbat. Once one accepts Shabbat, he should no longer fast. Third, Ra'aviah, no. 858, rules that a fast is not complete until tzeit hakochavim, even if one accepts Shabbat early.

Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 249:4, rules in accordance with the opinion of Ra'aviah. Rama, ad loc., adds that one may be lenient regarding a private fast to eat once one accepts Shabbat.

One can explain the dispute between Rabbeinu Meir and Ra'aviah in two ways. It is possible that the dispute is contingent upon how one understands tosefet Shabbat (the ability to accept Shabbat early). If tosefet Shabbat transforms Friday into Shabbat, it is possible that tosefet Shabbat produces the same effect as tzeit hakochavim and the fast is considered complete. However, if tosefet Shabbat merely superimposes the sanctity of Shabbat onto the existing day, the fast day is not considered complete until tzeit hakochavim.

Alternatively, one can explain that the dispute is contingent upon the ability of Shabbat to override the fast. Rabbeinu Meir is of the opinion that Shabbat and the fast cannot coexist and therefore, acceptance of Shabbat truncates that fast. Ra'aviah is of the opinion that Shabbat and a fast can coexist as long as the two days are not scheduled together on the calendar. Therefore, one must wait until tzeit hakochavim to complete the fast.

The practical difference between these two explanations is the efficacy of tosefetShabbat to end a ta'anit chalom (a fast performed in response to an unsettling dream). The Gemara, Berachot 31b, states (see Tosafot, ad loc.) that it is permissible to perform a ta'anit chalom on Shabbat. A ta'anitchalom is considered a private fast and as such, it should ostensibly be permissible to end a ta'anit chalom that began on Friday once one accepts Shabbat (according to the opinion of Rama). Nevertheless, this issue is contingent on the aforementioned explanations. If the reason why it is permissible to end a fast early upon acceptance of Shabbat is because tosefet Shabbat transforms Friday into Shabbat, it would be permissible to end a ta'anit chalom upon acceptance of Shabbat because tosefet Shabbat produces the same effect as tzeit hakochavim. However, if the reason why Rabbeinu Meir permits ending the fast during tosefet Shabbat is because Shabbat and a fast cannot coexist, that reason does not apply to a ta'anit chalom which can coexist with Shabbat.

The issue of whether it is permissible to conclude a ta'anit chalom during tosefet Shabbat is a matter of dispute among the Rishonim. Hagahot Maimoniot, Hilchot Ta'aniot 1:3, rules in accordance with the opinion of Rabbeinu Meir regarding ordinary fasts. Regarding a ta'anit chalom, he rules that one should conclude the fast at tzeit hakochavim. Hagahot Ashri, Ta'anit 1:12, rules that one may conclude a ta'anit chalom upon acceptance of Shabbat. Mishna Berurah 249:23 quotes both opinions and concludes that one should be stringent on the matter.


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    1. Title: Rabbi
      Author: False == 1 ? Anonymous : marvin Bash &##44;

      <p>Is there a source sheet to this lecture for printing?</p>

    2. Title: travel to different timezone
      Author: False == 1 ? Anonymous : michi hayman &##44;

      <p>the shevet levi 8:261 permits one who travels from israel to america to break his fast when nightfall occurs in israel.</p>

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