Beit Midrash

  • Sections
  • Peninei Halakha
To dedicate this lesson
Chapter 10: The Laws of Tisha Be-Av

3. The Prohibition of Eating and the Status of Sick People and Postpartum Women

Sick people are exempt from fasting on Tisha Be-Av. A woman within thirty days of childbirth is considered sick.Those who are exempt from fasting should take care to eat only simple foods that they need for their health.


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Cheshvan 21 5782

We have already explained the prohibition against eating and drinking on the minor fasts (above, 7:5-7) and have seen that there is a difference between those fasts and Tisha Be-Av: The minor fasts begin at alot ha-shaĥar, whereas Tisha Be-Av begins at shki’a. There is no difference, however, regarding the prohibition itself against eating and drinking.

We also saw that sick people are exempt from fasting on Tisha Be-Av (the definition of a “sick person” is explained above, 7:7) and that they need not limit themselves to quantities that are less than the shi’ur of eating or drinking. Only on Yom Kippur, which is mandated by Torah law and which even sick people must observe, must one eat less than the shi’ur, when possible, to avoid breaking the fast. On rabbinically instituted fasts, however, sick people are completely exempt; therefore, they need not eat small quantities or fast for a few hours. Nevertheless, several Aĥaronim write that, if possible, it is proper for sick people to be stringent and refrain from eating and drinking on the night of Tisha Be-Av, so that they participate in the community’s pain. In the morning, though, they may eat and drink as needed, with no limitations.[2]

A woman within thirty days of childbirth is considered sick, because she has not yet sufficiently regained her strength. Therefore, she is exempt from fasting (sa 551:6).[3] A woman who has miscarried and feels weak has the same status as a postpartum woman and is exempt from the fast of Tisha Be-Av if it occurs within thirty days after her miscarriage.

Those who are exempt from fasting should take care to eat only simple foods that they need for their health, not delicacies and treats for the sake of self-gratification. The poskim debate whether or not one who is permitted to eat recites Naĥem in Birkat Ha-mazon.[4]

[2] Some Aĥaronim maintain that, le-khatĥila, even on Tisha Be-Av a sick person should preferably eat quantities of less than a shi’ur, so that he does not technically break his fast and can thus recite the Aneinu and Naĥem additions to the prayer (cited in Sdei Ĥemed and in Tzitz Eliezer 10:25, 16:2). bhl 554:6 rules similarly, quoting Pitĥei Olam as saying that in a place where cholera is not already rampant and the doctors say that people must eat in order to avoid catching the disease, one should eat portions that are smaller than the shi’ur on Tisha Be-Av. Similarly, mb 554:14 states in the name of Eliya Rabba that a postpartum woman should preferably fast for a few hours, if possible. Ĥatam Sofer 157 concurs, saying that if a sick person can suffice with just drinking, he should not eat, and if eating once will satisfy his needs, he should not eat twice. According to Maharil Diskin (Kuntres Aĥaron §75), there is room to be stringent in this matter, not as far as the obligation to fast is concerned, but in order to avoid separating from the community.

In practice, if a sick person wants to be stringent and eat portions that are smaller than the shi’ur, he may later recite Aneinu and Naĥem, and some indeed go above and beyond in following this practice. Although the general rule is that sick people do not need to eat portions that are smaller than the shi’ur. So states ahs 554:7. Furthermore, even bhl only ruled that one should eat less than the shi’ur in reference to one who is not considered sick at all. Nishmat Avraham 4:554 and Tzitz Eliezer 10:25:16 concur.

Sometimes it is not certain whether a person is sick or not. It seems that if the uncertainty stems from the person’s weakness – i.e., that it is likely that he will become truly sick over the course of the fast, as in the case of a pregnant woman who feels weak – it is proper to instruct him to begin eating and drinking less than the shi’ur in the morning, in accordance with the ruling of bhl. If, however, the uncertainty stems from the person’s fear, there are grounds to instruct him to begin fasting, but to eat and drink if his illness intensifies.

[3] Rema 554:6 writes that a woman should fast if seven days have passed since childbirth, unless she is in great pain. mb ad loc. 14 quotes ma as saying that she may be lenient only if Tisha Be-Av is postponed. Nevertheless, ahs 554:7 states that nowadays a woman should not, God forbid, fast within thirty days of giving birth. Other Ashkenazic poskim rule this way as well. A woman who is lenient in this regard does not lose out at all.

[4] Many Ashkenazic poskim maintain that one recites Naĥem before the ending of the berakha of U-venei Yerushalayim (Rema 557:1). Others questioned this, claiming that the Sages never instituted the recitation of Naĥem in Birkat Ha-mazon (Vilna Gaon, quoted in mb 557:5). Still others say that it is best to recite it after all the berakhot of Birkat Ha-mazon are finished, together with the Ha-raĥaman prayers (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 557:11). 

את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר