• Rabbi Anthony Knopf

From the Desk - Children Fasting

Shalom Friends! I hope that this email finds you well. Please continue to pray for all those affected by the coronavirus, and that this disease, with the help of Hashem, should soon be a thing of the past. It was wonderful to see that, despite the global anxieties, our community came together for some wonderful Purim celebrations over the last week. The Hamantaschen bake, Kids’ Carnival, both Megillah readings (along with the costume contest), the Mishloach Manot packing and selling and the Italian supper were all superbly organized and executed. Thank you so much to Heshy Benshimon, Howie Brown and his volunteers, Carly Knopf and her volunteers and Aron, Miriam and Maury Rosenzweig and their volunteers who worked so hard to create another wonderful Purim at Beth Ora! As I write (Wednesday afternoon), our annual blood drive is in full swing with a good turnout of people donating blood to save lives. Yasher koach to Shelley and Mark Sherman and family and volunteers for organizing such an important event. As the Winter draws to a close and more people start to return from Florida, Beth Ora’s programming proceeds in full pace! Please add these events to your calendar:

  • The Pre-Passover Roadshow, Tuesday March 17th, RSVP to the office ASAP

  • Family Volunteer Day at MADA, Sunday March 22nd, 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM

  • Pizza supper and class in honour of the yahrzeit of the Alter of Slabodka, Wednesday, March 25th, 5:45-6:45 PM, RSVP essential

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami

What’s the Deal with… Children Fasting? Monday was a fast day, The Fast of Esther. This is one of four minor fast days in the Jewish calendar. There are also two stricter fasts: Tisha B’Av and, of course, Yom Kippur. Those over the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah who would not be endangered by fasting are obligated to do so (in certain communities, some women don’t fast on the minor fast days). But what about children below the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah? In researching this question, I benefited from an article by Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin. Although children are not obligated to perform mitzvoth before reaching Bar/Bat Mitzvah, parents are obligated to start educating them earlier on. On what stage should a healthy child start fasting? Let’s start with the strictest fast day, Yom Kippur. Before the age of nine, children should not fast on Yom Kippur. Even if they want to, we discourage them lest they endanger themselves. There are some who hold that if children wish to fast for a few hours, they may do so if they are physically able. A healthy child should begin to practice fasting at age nine, and a weaker child should begin at 10. One should train these children to gradually increase their fasting time. At first, they should eat their breakfast an hour later than usual, then more, building up toward fasting a whole day. According to some, once boys and girls reach 11 years of age, they should be trained to complete the entire fast on Yom Kippur. Others, however, hold that they should only fast for a few hours and this opinion can be relied upon in the case of weaker children. What about the other fast days? Children below Bar/Bat Mitzvah don’t need to fast on those days though some have the custom to encourage them to do so for a few hours if they are strong and healthy. We try to minimize giving sweets and other treats to children who are old enough to understand the seriousness of these days of mourning.

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