Asara B’Tevet: When On A Friday

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asarah btevetby Ari Enkin

Asara B’tevet, the day that commemorates Nevuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem,[1. See Melachim II:25; Yirmiyahu 52:4; Yechezkel 24:1,2.] is the only fast that can occur on a Friday.[2. Abudraham, Ta’anit; Magen Avraham 550:4; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 550:2; Mishna Berura 550:10.] This is quite significant and demonstrates that although it is a “minor fast day” its status is distinct from among all the other “minor fast days”. In fact, if Asara B’tevet were to occur on a Shabbat (though nowadays this is not possible due to the way the current calendar was established)[3. Magen Avraham 550:4,5.] it would be observed on that day, as well, earning itself a standing similar to Yom Kippur.[4. Abudraham. See Rambam, Hilchot Ta’anit 5:5 and Beit Yosef, OC 550 for a dissenting opinion.] The reason that Asara B’tevet and Yom Kippur must be observed on the actual day they occur is due to the expression “b’etzem hayom hazeh” (“on this specific day”) which is used in reference to each of them.[5. Yechezkel 24:2; Vayikra 23:28; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 549:2.] For this reason Asara B’tevet and Yom Kippur are never advanced or postponed.

When Asara B’tevet occurs on a Friday, the fast must be observed until nightfall even though this requires one to enter Shabbat while hungry, fasting, and distressed which is generally to be avoided.[6. Yabia Omer 6:31.] The Friday Shacharit service remains the same as if the fast would have occurred on any other day of the week. So too, at Mincha, the Torah and Haftara are read and “aneinu” is added in the Shemoneh Esrei as normal. Tachanun and Avinu Malkeinu, however, are omitted.[7. Aruch Hashulchan, OC 550:2; Mishna Berura 603:3.] It is interesting to note that there once existed a custom not to read the Torah at Mincha when Asara B’tevet occurred on a Friday, but very few communities conduct themselves in this manner today. Indeed, there are those who argue that the custom likely evolved due to a misunderstanding of earlier sources.[8. Aruch Hashulchan, OC 550:2.]

All of the regular Shabbat preparations, including showers and haircuts, may be performed as normal when Asara B’tevet occurs on a Friday, even by those who normally refrain from such activities on fast days.[9. Mishna Berura 551:7.] Nevertheless, those who refrain from listening to music on fast days should refrain from music on Asara B’tevet, as well. Those who wear tefillin at Mincha on fast days must be sure to recite Mincha early in the day[10. Nitei Gavriel, Chanuka 62:4.] as it is improper to don tefillin close to the arrival of Shabbat.[11. Nitei Gavriel, Chanuka 63:4.] One who has the custom to taste the Shabbat food every Friday may do so on Asara B’tevet, as well, but one must be sure to only taste a small amount of food and spit it out without swallowing.[12. OC 567:1; Mishna Berura 567:6; Kaf Hachaim, OC 567:10.]

For the sake of convenience, it is permitted (and even encouraged) for congregations to recite Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv a little earlier than usual in order to allow congregants to arrive home and recite Kiddush precisely at nightfall.[13. Nitei Gavriel, Chanuka 63:6 footnotes 9, 10. For a very interesting discussion on the permissibility of accepting Shabbat early and concluding the fast at that time (and certainly before nightfall), see Nitei Gavriel, Chanuka, Sheilot U’teshuvot 14 and Yabia Omer 6:31.] Some authorities permit one to rely on a more lenient definition of nightfall in order to allow the Shabbat evening meal to begin as soon as possible.[14. Nitei Gavriel 63:7.]  Those who are especially hungry can recite Kiddush as soon as the fast is over and defer the singing of “shalom aleichem” and other preliminary zemirot for later in the meal.[15. Nitei Gavriel, Chanuka 63:8.] One who recites maariv early must be sure to repeat the shema after dark. Those who have the custom not to recite Kiddush between 6pm and 7pm should disregard this custom on such a Shabbat.[16. Nitei Gavriel, Chanuka 63:9.] It is permitted to rinse one’s mouth, such as with mouthwash, before reciting Kiddush.[17. Mishna Berura 271:13.]

There are a number of reasons why one should consider reciting Mincha especially early (“Mincha gedola”) when Asara B’tevet falls on a Friday. On the most practical level, it allows the lengthy Mincha service to be discharged early in the day, allowing one to devote the remainder of the day to Shabbat preparations. Convening Mincha immediately prior to the arrival of Shabbat forces people into an earlier Friday afternoon routine than they are accustomed to, which is likely to cause distraction, disorderly Shabbat preparations, and widespread late arrival to shul.[18. Minhagei Eretz Yisrael 27:28.]

Reciting Mincha early in the day is also recommended as one will still be wearing one’s weekday clothes at that time. On the other hand, reciting Mincha immediately prior to the arrival of Shabbat would force one to recite the mourning-flavored fast day prayers in one’s Shabbat clothes which is considered inappropriate.[19. However, there are those of the opinion that one should always wear one’s Shabbat clothes for Mincha on Friday, even on Asara B’tevet, regardless of the time of day one recites mincha. Nitei Gavriel 62:3.] It is also preferable to distance the mournful prayers of a fast day as far from the arrival of Shabbat as possible.[20. Devar Yehoshua 3:63, cited in Nitei Gavriel, Chanuka 63 note 4.]

Asara B’tevet will occur on a Friday in the years:  5774, 5781, 5784, 5785, 5795, 5798

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot.


  1. re: women and university chanukah celebrations, it seems like this is a classic case of tafasta merubeh lo tafasta, from the perspective of the rabbi, or, less charitably, of adam telling eve that she can’t even touch the tree. as presumably all of us know, women can and should light chanukah candles. if the rabbi had originally allowed them to do so in public, maybe he could have had more control over the singing?

    • I actually have a more basic question on the whole story. Is one allowed to make a bracha on a “public” lighting, by which I take it to mean an auditorium or other assembly hall? Generally, the obligation (on men and women) is to light in the home. Yes, the minhag is to do so in a shul, but it does not sound like that was a shul.

  2. “The real life danger of a coerced get”

    Whenever this comes up, I feel compelled to mention what I heard from R. Aharon Soloveichik many years ago. In galus, a beis din only has as much power as the local government permits, and its coercive powers derive from that government. Even if the circumstances are such that a forced get is called for under the Shulchan Aruch, if the local authorities consider the means of force to be illegal, then the beis din is not a beis din, and the forcing is possul, because a forced get requires a beis din.

    This mean, that in America, a get obtained through violence or threats of violence is possul, period. Regardless of whether the wife deserves one acc. to the Shulchan Aruch. (Presumably, legal forms of coercion and pressure are different. Shunning someone is recognized as a religious right in America, so presumably that would still be in bounds.)

  3. Tal: Why do threats passul the get?

    • Because threatening violence is a crime. Let me quote from NY Penal Code Section 135.60:

      “A person is guilty of coercion in the second degree when he or she compels or induces a person to engage in conduct which the latter has a
      legal right to abstain from engaging in, or to abstain from engaging in conduct in which he or she has a legal right to engage . . . by means of instilling in him or her a fear that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor or another will:
      1. Cause physical injury to a person; . . .”

      • I should add that threatening someone with physical injury in fact is coercion in the first degree, Penal Code Section 135.70. That is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment!

        • No, threats invalidate a get because a get must be given out of the free will of the husband. Only in rare occasions can the Beis Din coerce a husband to give a get, and then corporal activity would be permitted because בדברים לא יוסר עבד.
          Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik is introducing a new reason to invalidate a get even in the rare occasion when the Shulchan Aruch permits coercion.

  4. Regarding women singing in public: the past edition of Tradition had an article by R. Moshe Lichtenstein where he states women religious singing is ok(not prohibited under Kol isha). He goes further to say that those who ‘move the fence’ toward more machmir positions are aguilty of assuming that people’s sexual nature overcomes everything else and that this in fact is wrong, not an admireable chumra.

  5. ‘Moving the fence’ was my terminology. I apologize that I dont recall his exact words and dont have access at this moment. He clearly stated that religious singing by women(and in fact all non-licentious singing) was not a problem. Perhaps more importantly he pointed out that being machmir has significant halachic ramifications which outwiegh the ‘benefit’ of being machmir. I think that many discuss only the possible benefits of being machmir on issues like this, and it is good to see that the downsides are addressed and outlined in a halachic fashion as well.
    He bases his position on the sources. He is a Rosh Yeshiva of perhaps the most prestigous hesder yeshiva in Israel, and grandson of RYBS who, perhaps not coincidentally, went to the opera. I dont recall if he mentions how common his position is, but feel free to dwell on how unique or not his position is or isn’t.
    I understand that he is not your posek. Your positions on women’s issues have been made clear. The point is that the incident occured in Israel and R. Lichtenstein also is in Israel. If the rav in question was part of the DL camp he had someone ‘al ma lismoch’ and instead made a scene.

    • I agree that R. Mosheh Lichtenstein is a formidable talmid chacham who can be followed. But just because one posek is lenient, that does not mean that suddenly there is no justification for anyone to be strict. We each follow our own posek. And even in Israel, plenty of poskim and roshei yeshiva–particularly within the Hesder system–are strict about this.

      Additionally, if you read his article, you will see that he uses the term she’as ha-dechak. In other words, he is moving the fence. I don’t question his right to rule leniently. But he is the one making the break with prior pesak.

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