9 – Children, Bridegrooms, and Soldiers

Children who have yet to reach the age at which they are obligated in the mitzvot are exempt from the fasts that the Rabbis instituted.  And the Sages did not require us to train our children to fast for a few hours; they did so only in regard to Yom Kippur, which is Torah-based…  Nonetheless, many have a custom to train their children to fast a few hours, each one according to his or her strength.  But children should not fast all day long (Rama of Panow 111; see KHC 554:23).  When feeding children on a fast day, one should give them only simple foods, in order to teach them to mourn with the congregation (MB 550:5).

Brides and grooms are obligated to fast on the minor fast days.  Even though they have a mitzvah to rejoice for seven days after their wedding, and they are therefore forbidden to accept upon themselves a private fast, nonetheless, they must observe public fasts, because public mourning overrides private joy.  Moreover, brides and grooms have a special mitzvah to remember the churban (the destruction of the Temple), as it says (Tehillim 137:6), If I fail to raise Jerusalem above my highest joy (Ritva, BH 549:1.  Many authorities are lenient regarding Ta’anit Esther; see below, chap. 14, n. 12).

The main participants of a brit milah (circumcision) – namely, the father, the sandak, and the mohel – are also obligated to fast.  The same is true of a father who redeems his firstborn son (pidyon ha-ben) on a fast day; he may not eat.  Instead, the custom is to perform the brit or the pidyon towards the end of the fast and have the [festive] meal after the stars emerge.[12]

Soldiers who are engaged in a defensive operation that is liable to be compromised if they fast should eat and drink as usual so that they can carry out their mission properly.  However, soldiers who are [merely] training must fast.


[12]. According to the Gra (end of 686), the main participants of a brit and a bridegroom on the day of his wedding do not have to observe the minor fasts.  Most poskim, however, hold that they must fast.  When the fast is postponed, however, the main celebrants may eat after Minchah time [which is half an hour after midday], even if it is Tish’a B’Av.  So says the Shulchan Aruch (559:9).  And even though some authorities rule strictly on the matter, as the Kaf HaChayim (559:74) explains, the majority rules leniently.  The Mishnah Berurah and the author of Torat HaMo’adim (2:5-6) concur.  However, the Aruch HaShulchan (559:9) writes: “Nevertheless, we have not seen or heard of anyone who does this, especially concerning us who eat most of our [festive] meals at night.  [This is true] of all fasts, not only of Tish’a B’Av.  And even if a fast is postponed, we do not partake of a festive meal until nighttime, whether it is for a brit milah or a pidyon ha-ben.  This is the common practice, and one should not act differently.”  See Piskei Teshuvot 549:2.  Since Ta’anit Esther is a more lenient fast, the Sha’ar HaTziyun (686:16) writes that one may rely on the Gra and act leniently.
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