Another reason for the fast. Ester fasted for three days before going to Achashveirosh. We commemorate this with Ta'anis Ester. Although Ester actually fasted in the month of Nissan, we not permitted to fast in Nissan, therefore the fast was moved up to Adar.
The fast begins at dawn and ends at nightfall. In normal years where Purim follows the fast, one may not eat before hearing the Megilah. (If a person will have to wait a long time before he will be able to hear the Megilah, he may eat up to the size of an egg (even bread).
If Purim falls on Sunday the fast is moved up to the previous Thursday. (Known as Ta'anis ester mukdam - early.) We do not set the fast for Friday, since the extra prayers will be time consuming and will interfere with the Shabbos preparations. If for some reason a person forgot to fast on Thursday, he should fast on Friday.
Who is obligated to fast?
All people from the age of Bar/Bat mitzvah and up.
Who is exempt from fasting?
Women who are pregnant or nursing are not required to fast. A certain sefer quotes the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l that they should fast as long as they could.
A woman who gave birth within a month of Ta'anis Ester, should not fast.
A sick person, even if there is no danger to his life, sohuld not fast. A person who's eyes are hurting, and he is suffering as a result, may eat, but he is required to fast at a later date.
Bris: According to the Gr"ah the Ba'alei bris, (father of the baby, the mohel and the sandak) are exempt from fasting. Nevertheless, the custom is for them to also fast, unless Ta'anis Ester is mukdam, in which case they may eat after the bris.
A bris on Ta'anis ester mukdam: According to the Ramoh, all people may partake in the meal on Thursday, however they are required to fast on Friday. According to the Taz, only the ba'alei bris may eat on Thursday, while the festive seudas milah should be eaten on Thursday night. The Chayei Odom rules like the Taz, however in the time of need one can rely on the opinion of the Ramoh. Either way the baa'lei bris are not required to fast on Friday.
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