I’ve written several posts about Jewish law regarding fasting for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Yesterday, in the alon “Shabbat beShabbato,” Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon of the Machon LeHalachah UleHoraah and head of the Beit Midrash (study hall) at Machon Lev, discussed a special case that occurs twice in the next few weeks. This year, the traditional fast days of 17 Tamuz and 9 Av (Tisha B’Av) fall on Shabbat, so observance of the fasts are pushed off until Sunday. In these cases, Jewish law is more lenient in granting exceptions to groups of people who might have difficulty fasting,
Aside from stating that breastfeeding and pregnant women are exempt from fasting in years when the observance of 9 Av is pushed off until Sunday, Rabbi Rimon addresses a question rarely discussed: A woman who has given birth within the last 24 months has the status of a meineket in Jewish law, whether or not she is currently breastfeeding. He mentions the MHRSh”M, and a responsum by Yechaveh Daat, as being lenient and allowing an exemption from minor fasts for women in this category.
You can see the Hebrew original with sources in Shabbat be’Shabbato, issue number 1632. Below is my translation of the halacha lemaaseh according to R. Rimon.
“Practical halachah” by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon
Regarding 17 Tamuz (this year, postponed until 18 Tamuz, Sunday, July 24, 2016): Even when the fast occurs on the original date many pregnant and nursing mothers do not fast in modern times (and if the woman is weak, she is exempt for 24 months after birth even if she is not breastfeeding at all), and this applies even more strongly when the fast is deferred.
Regarding 9 Av (this year, postponed until 10 Av, Sunday, August 14, 2016): With pregnant women, there is a concern for the fetus etc., and therefore even when the fast is on the original day we generally check which month of pregnancy she is in, etc. When the fast is postponed it must be stated that pregnant women should not fast at all.
Similarly, a woman who is actively breastfeeding does not need to fast on 9 Av that is postponed (unless she is at the end of the breastfeeding period, and she is strong). [HK: “At the end of her breastfeeding period” means close to weaning.]
A woman who is within 24 months of birth, and is not actively breastfeedi ng, can be lenient and not fast if she is weak (something found among very many women these days) but if she has returned to her strength, she should fast as usual. [HK: Actively breastfeeding means that the child breastfeeds. According to Jewish law, a mother is considered a breastfeeding mother for 24 months after birth whether the child breastfeeds or not.]
Note: Because the fast begins at the close of Shabbat, one who wants to eat must first make the havdalah blessing [HK: signifying the end of the Sabbath] on a cup [HK: of wine or grape juice].
Posts on fasting and breastfeeding and Pregnancy:
A Radical Ruling: Fasting and Breastfeeding on Yom Kippur (includes information about concerns with supplementing by bottle on Yom Kippur)