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Fast: Exodus 32:11-14; Exodus 34:1-10
Fast Day - Minchah: Isaiah
A fast is observed today by all adults (i.e., over bar or bat mitzvah age) in commemoration of the three-day fast called at Esther's behest before she risked her life to appear unsummoned before King Achashveirosh to save the Jewish people from Haman's evil decree (as related in the Book of Esther, chapter 4). The fast also commemorates Esther's fasting on the 13th of Adar, as the Jews fought their enemies. No food or drink is partaken of from daybreak to nightfall. Pregnant or nursing women or people in ill health are exempted from fasting.
In commemoration of the half shekel contributed by each Jew to the Holy Temple -- and which the Talmud credits as having counteracted the 10,000 silver coins Haman gave to King Ahasuerus to obtain the royal decree calling for the extermination of the Jewish people -- it is customary to give three coins in "half denomination" (e.g., the half-dollar coins) to charity on the afternoon of the Fast of Esther. (In many synagogues, plates are set out with silver half-dollars, so that all could purchase them to use in observance of this custom).