As we learn from the Esther’s Scroll, King Achashveirosh never revoked his original decree authorizing the killing of the Jews. However, after the hanging of Haman on Nissan 16 of the previous year, and Queen Esther’s pleading on behalf of her people, he agreed to issue a second decree authorizing the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies.
On the 13th of Adar of the year 3405 from creation, battles were fought throughout the Persian Empire between the Jews and those seeking to kill them.
Fast of Esther
A fast is observed on the 13th of Adar by all adults (those over bar or bat mitzvah age).
Fasting is associated with some pivotal moments in the Purim story. One of them is 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. Before she went to the king, Esther asked that all the Jews fast as well (on the 14-16th of Nissan, 3404).
Another dramatic turnaround occurred a year later – on Adar 13, 3405.
75,000 enemies were killed on that day, and 500 in the capital city of Shushan, including Haman’s ten sons. The Jews did not take any of the possessions of the slain as booty, though authorized to do so by the king’s decree.
The triumph was accomplished while the Jews were fasting, as they prayed to G‑d that they be successful in the battle against their enemies.
The Fast of Esther is not one of the four public fasts that was ordained by the prophets. Consequently, we are more lenient in its observance, particularly when it comes to bride and groom (in the seventh days following their chuppah), pregnant women, nursing mothers and others who are weak.
Giving of “Half Coins”
During Temple times, on the first day of the month of Adar, the beit din (Jewish court) would issue a proclamation reminding people that they needed to give a half-shekel to the Beit ha-Mikdash.
Today it’s customary to donate a half-shekel equivalent (or an equivalent of three half-shekels) before the “Minchah” prayer on the Fast of Esther. This practice reflects the idea that the shekels of the Jewish people counteracted the shekels that Haman gave to have them annihilated during the times of Mordechai and Esther.
✔ It is customary to donate a sum of money equal to the value of the original half of a shekel. We advise you to consult your rabbi concerning the exact equivalent of this coin in today’s standard currency.
✔ It is customary to give three coins on behalf of each family member, since the word Terumah (“offering”) is mentioned three times in the beginning of Parshat “Ki Tisa” describing the mitzvah of “Half Coins” (“Shemot”, 30:11-34:35).
✔ One who did not manage to give his “Half Coins” before Mincha, can give it after Mincha, or before the Megillah reading on Purim night or before the Megillah reading on Purim morning.
✔ A father who started giving on behalf of his young children, must continue doing so until the child becomes responsible to give on his own, unless he explicitly made a condition [the first time that he gave for his children] that he is not accepting it upon himself as a vow. A father should also give the Machatzit Hashekel on behalf of his unborn child (during the mother’s pregnancy).
✔ It’s customary to bring the “Half Coins” to synagogues and study houses which are called “mikdash me’at” – “a small Beit ha-Mikdash”.
To get more information about the laws of the fast and the “Half Coins”, please, consult your rabbi or the nearest Beit Chabad.