Sunday, October 9, 2011

Religious tension regarding fasting


"One who fasts voluntarily [as opposed to observing halachically required fasts] certainly is called a sinner… but the mitzvah he performs by fasting is greater than the sin of fasting."

(Tosafot, Taanit 11a אמר שמואל)

Pitka tava,


  1. It is unclear from the Tos. whether there is really a mitzvah to fast. Aderaba rhey learn kal vechomer from Nazir that fasting is a sin then they bring Sotah and say how it is good to make a vow but we know that there are many sources from Mishlei and the Talmud which say that it is better not to fast. They then bring the specific case of ta'anit chalom. But this is still not a mitzvah, just a hanhagah that is good for the soul.

  2. I think part of the problem is that we need a better definition of 'mitzvah'. Assuming 'mitzvah' means more than "one of the 613", why wouldn't it include a hanhagah that is good for the soul?

  3. A mitzvah is something commanded by the Torah or the Torah b'al peh but is not necessarily chovah. Some examples: It is a mitzvah to wear tzitzit but it is not chova (someone who doesn't wear a 4 cornered garment is pattur) The GRA said that it is a mitzvah to eat matzah all seven days of Pesach but it is only chovah at the Seder. Similarly while it is a mitzvah to eat in the sukkah all week,(with a bracha!)it is chovah only on the first night. IMHO ta'anit reshut including ta'anit chalom does not fit this definition.

  4. On what basis do you draw that distinction? The lack of a pasuk stating it?

    There are many more gray area mitzvos.