Tanit Bechorot

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The reason for the fast

  1. In commemoration of the miracle that Hashem saved the firstborn Jews from the plague of the firstborn, the firstborns fast on Tanit Bechorot, which is on Erev Pesach. [1]

Which firstborns are obligated to fast?

  1. A firstborn of one’s mother or the firstborn of one’s father (or both) should fast on Erev Pesach. [2] The reason is that Hashem killed both the firstborns of the father and of the mother in Egypt. [3]
  2. Even a Levi or Cohen should fast. [4]
  3. A groom within 7 days of the wedding doesn’t have to fast on Tanit Bechorot. [5]


  1. The Ashkenazic minhag is that women don’t fast. [6] This is also the Sephardic minhag.[7] Even for those who the custom is for women to fast, if the woman is pregnant or nursing she shouldn't fast. [8]


  1. A father should fast in place of his son who is a firstborn but is under Bar Mitzvah. According to the minhag to listen to a Siyum, the father should go to the Siyum in place of his son. [9]
  2. If the firstborn child isn't yet 30 days old the father doesn't have to fast or listen to a siyum but if it is possible to do so he should.[10]
  3. The Rama writes that if the father is a firstborn, the mother should fast for her firstborn son who is under Bar Mitzvah. [11] However, the Mishna Brurah quotes some poskim who say that the father's fast counts for the son as well. Therefore, the Mishna Brurah allows a mother to be lenient if she is in pain. [12]
  4. The Aruch HaShulchan writes that we no longer have the minhag that a parent should fast for a firstborn son who is under Bar Mitzvah. [13]

Those who are unable to fast

  1. One who has an ache in his eyes or head is not required to fast. [14]
  2. If someone will only be able to eat a very small amount because of the fast and won’t be able to fulfill the mitzvot of Matzah and 4 cups of wine, one shouldn’t fast. Nevertheless, it is preferable that he just have snacks and not a meal. [15]

Tanit Bechorim on Friday and Shabbat

  1. If Erev Pesach falls out on Shabbat, some say that one is not obligated to fast, while others say that one should fast on Thursday. The minhag follows the latter opinion. [16] The minhag is to do a Siyum on Thursday and exempt oneself from the fast [17], even those who fast Tanit Bechorot regular years. [18] Some say it’s preferable to make a Siyum on Friday in addition to the one on Thursday. [19]
  2. If Erev Pesach falls out on Friday, the fast should take place on that day. [20]

Minhag to join a Siyum

  1. Many are lenient to join in a Siyum Masechet and to hear the end of the Masechet and the Siyum and then join for the Seudat Mitzvah and break the fast the rest of the day. [21]
  2. Some say that it’s critical to understand the last piece of Gemara to join for the Siyum, however, the minhag is to be lenient in any circumstance. [22] Some say that one only has to participate in some of the learning, maybe by hearing the rabbi speaks words of mussar. [23]
  3. Preferably, after hearing the Siyum one should eat a KeBaytzah of Mezonot or bread as a meal for the Siyum. Some are lenient and allow one to break the fast after hearing a Siyum without eating there. [24]
  4. If one learned an entire Maasechet except for one paragraph, it’s sufficient for a Siyum. [25]
  5. It is not necessary to study the entire masechet in order. [26]
  6. If a woman finishes a complete masechet she still cannot absolve the first borns from the fast. [27]
  7. If someone studies through one of the books of the holy Zohar, it is considered an act of genuine Torah study even if he does not understand any of the mystical meanings of the passages. Celebrating the completion of these books is sufficient to exempt a firstborn from fasting on the 14th of Nissan. [28]
  8. A firstborn who is within a year of mourning for his father or mother may nevertheless attend the celebration of the completion of a masechet on the 14th of Nissan to exempt himself from fasting. [29]
  9. Likewise, someone within the thirty-day mourning period for another immediate relative may attend such a celebration as well. [30]
  10. However, someone within the seven-day mourning period may not attend such a celebration. If he is weak and fasting through the day would adversely affect his ability to perform the mitzvot of the seder night, he may redeem himself from the fast by giving some money to charity. [31]



  1. Mishna Brurah 470:1, Kaf HaChaim 470:1, Tur 470:1. The original source for this fast is Masechet Sofrim 21:3. Kaf Hachayim 470:30 explains that even though the miracle happened on the fifteen we fast on the fourteenth because we don't fat on yom tov.
  2. S”A 470:1
  3. Mishna Brurah 470:2, Kaf Hachayim 470:2.
  4. Mishna Brurah 470:2
  5. Kovetz MeBet Levi (Nissan 5761 pg 86). Rav Ovadia Yosef in Yabia Omer 1:25 says he should try to participate in a seudat mitzva.
  6. Rama 470:1, Mishna Brurah 470:4
  7. Although Shulchan Aruch O.C. 470:1 holds that women firstborns should fast Tanit Bechorot and Rav Ovadia Yosef in Sh”t Yechave Daat 3:25 and Sh”t Yabia Omer 4:42 upheld that minhag, nonetheless, in Chazon Ovadia Pesach p. 207-8 he concluded that it wasn't the minhag today. Rav Shlomo Amar in Haggadah Myamim Yamim agrees. Kaf HaChaim 470:17 quotes the Chida (Machazik Beracha 470:2) and Ben Ish Chai (Parashat Tzav) that the Sephardic minhag is to follow the Rama that women do not fast Tanit Bechorot.
  8. Mishna Brurah 470:9, Kaf Hachayim 470:15 and 21.
  9. Rama 470:2, Piskei Teshuvot 470:6, Yalkut Yosef 470:19, Yosef Daat (Dinei Chinuch 16:3)
  10. Yalkut Yosef 470:19
  11. Rama 470:2
  12. Mishna Brurah 470:9
  13. Aruch HaShulchan 470:4
  14. Mishna Brurah 470:2
  15. Mishna Brurah 470:2
  16. S”A and Rama 470:2
  17. Sh”t Igrot Moshe 4:69 writes that it’s sufficient to make a Siyum on Thursday and Piskei Teshuvot 470:4 writes that such is the minhag. Sh"t Yechave Daat 1:91, Chazon Ovadyah Pesach pg 100, and Or Letzion 3:12(2) write that even though the strict law is that the firstborns are exempt it's preferable that they join in a Siyum. See Birkei Yosef 470:2 who quotes the Meiri who says that if Erev Pesach is on Shabbat, one should fast Tanit Bechorot on Friday.
  18. Sh”t Elef Lecha Shlomo 1:386,
  19. Sh”t Teshuvot Vehanhagot 2:111, Sh”t Mishneh Halachot 7:65, Orchot Rabbenu (vol 2 pg 57)
  20. Mishna Brurah 470:5, Chazon Ovadyah Pesach pg 101 (5763 edition, pg 117)
  21. Yalkut Yosef, 470:16, Mishna Brurah 470:10, Piskei Teshuvot 470:6, 8 based on Igrot Moshe 4:49, Maharsham 215, Ben Ish Chai Tzav 25, Kaf Hachayim 470:10 and Aruch HaShulchan 470:5
  22. Piskei Teshuvot 470:10
  23. Rabbi Eli Mansour Dailyhalacha
  24. Piskei Teshuvot 470:11, Halichot Shlomo 8:1
  25. Halichot Shlomo 8:2
  26. Yalkut Yosef 470:20
  27. Rabbi Eli Mansour Dailyhalacha
  28. Yalkut Yosef 470:19
  29. Yalkut Yosef 470:24
  30. Yalkut Yosef 470:24
  31. Yalkut Yosef 470:24