Q. I have a headache. Am I permitted to break my fast today?
A. The halachos regarding breaking one’s fast on Taanis Esther are more lenient than with regard to other fasts. This is because the Rama (OC 686:2) writes that fasting on Taanis Esther is not a complete obligation. Taanis Esther is not explicitly mentioned in the Nevi’im (Prophets) or in the Talmud as a fast day. However, since it has become customary to fast on this day, one may not separate themselves from the rest of the Jewish people.
Because Taanis Esther is more lenient, the Mishnah Berurah (686:4) writes that the custom in many places is that expectant or nursing mothers may eat even if they do not feel any discomfort. The Piskei Teshuvos (686:3) quotes many sources that write that today, this is the prevailing custom.
An additional leniency is that on most fasts, one who is ill need not fast, but a common headache does not constitute an illness. However, on Taanis Esther, even one who has a headache is permitted to break their fast. However, one who has a headache might want to consider whether they really want to break their fast, since they are required to make up the fast at a later date (Rama ibid).
This column comes from OU Kosher’s Halacha Yomis dedicated in memory of Rav Chaim Yisroel ben Reb Dov HaLevy Belsky, zt’l, Senior OU Kosher Halachic Consultant (1987-2016). Subscribers can also ask their own questions on Kashrus issues and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. These questions and their answers may be selected to become one of the Q and A’s on OU Kosher Halacha Yomis.