Why We Fast on Tzom Gedaliah

By Shelly Greenstein - Forman Sep 08, 2021 06:00 AM

Many Jewish people are all familiar with the minor fast day that comes swiftly after the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Many learned about Tzom Gedaliah in the past, but seem to forget the importance of this day and why we fast in the first place since it comes so soon after one of the most important holidays of the year.

Tzom Gedaliah is a dusk till dawn fast day that commemorates the tragic murder of Gedaliah, a governor of Judea. After the Babylonians destroyed the Bet Hamikdash in Yerushalayim and exiled the majority of the Jewish nation in 3338, they appointed Gedaliah ben Achikam as governor of the remaining Jews in our holy land. When Gedaliah was appointed, many Jewish people from neighboring cities came to live in Yerushalayim and they formed a large Jewish community there. Under Gedaliah's great leadership, the community flourished by bringing the destroyed land back to life.

Before Rosh Hashanah of that year, Gedaliah was told that a fellow Jew, Ishmael ben Netaniah, was jealous of his power and wished to kill him and take over as governor. Upon hearing this, Gedaliah stopped the men who wanted to kill Ishmael because he could not believe that Ishmael would ever do such a thing. 

When Rosh Hashanah approached, Ishmael and ten men came to celebrate the holiday with Gedaliah. During the festivities, Ishmael and his men attacked Gedaliah and his men and murdered them.

Not only did this terrible act lead to more violence and murder, but it also forced the Jews to flee to Egypt which ended the Jewish settlement in the land of Israel. The murder of Gedaliah and his men led to the finality of the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people from the land of Israel in its entirety.

The reason that we fast on the third of Tishrei for the death of one man is that of the enormity of the consequences behind this single heinous act. Not only was Gedaliah murdered by a fellow Jew which highlights the concept of Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred amongst the Jewish nation), but it also led to the final nail in the coffin of the Jewish nation being exiled out of our Holy Land.

That is why we fast each year. We fast on Tzom Gedaliah to honor Gedaliah's memory and to remind ourselves that jealousy is a poisonous emotion that can lead to utter destruction.

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Shelly Forman is currently serving as editor-in-chief of Sephardic.Org. Shelly curates the content that comes through to Sephardic and makes sure that each and every article, video, and image on the site goes along with our amazing mission statement.