[Avodah] Is one permitted to bathe, take a haircut or listen to music on Taanis Esther?

Prof. L. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Tue Feb 23 05:20:19 PST 2021

>From today's OU Kosher Halacha Yomis

Q. Is one permitted to bathe, take a haircut or listen to music on Taanis Esther?

A. The Meiri (Sefer Magen Avos 23) writes that Taanis Esther is different than other communal fast days. Other communal fast days commemorate events of tragedy, while Taanis Esther is a day of celebration, for on that day, the Jews of old fasted before going to war (Mishna Berura 686:2), merited to have Hashem listen to their plea and overcame their enemies.

This contrast is reflected in the following halacha: The Gemara (Megila 5a) states that when the 9th day of Av falls on Shabbos, the fast of Tisha B’av is delayed until Sunday. We do not observe the fast before Shabbos because one should postpone, rather than advance, the commemoration of tragedy. In contrast, when the 13th day of Adar falls on Shabbos, Taanis Esther is observed on the previous Thursday. We may advance the fast since it commemorates a joyous event.

By the same token, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l (Halichos Shlomo, Purim 18:6) contrasts Taanis Esther with other fast days with respect to bathing and cutting hair. Although bathing is technically permitted on all fast days except Tisha B’av (Shulchan Oruch 550:1), and hair cutting is acceptable on Tzom Gedalia and Asara B’teves, some are stringent and do not bathe and take haircuts on communal fast days, in keeping with the sad character of the day . This is not the case with Taanis Esther, where everyone agrees that bathing and haircuts are permissible.

Rav Zilberstein, shlita (Chashukei Chemed Megila 16b) writes that one may even listen to music. However, Rav Elyashiv, zt”l is quoted in the sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Vol. 3:41:20) as saying that it is inappropriate to listen to music. Taanis Esther is also a day of forgiveness, and music will detract from the solemnity of the day.

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