Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fast of Gedalia Observed Sunday


Every year this fast seems to take me by surprise. I don't know why it is always off my radar. I hope everyone out there is not as lame as I am in remembering this particular fast!

by Ezra HaLevi

( Sunday is the Fast of Gedalia (Tzom Gedalia), in commemoration of the end of Jewish rule in the Holy Land 2,500 years ago. The fast day, which is observed every year on the 3rd of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, was postponed by one day due to the Sabbath.

The fast day, which begins at dawn and ends at dusk, mourns the assassination of Gedalia, governor of Judea, which marked the end of Jewish rule there following the destruction of the First Holy Temple.

Gedalia, son of Achikam, was actually appointed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnetzar after he conquered Jerusalem and killed or exiled most of its inhabitants. A number of Jews who had fled to neighboring Moav, Ammon and Edom returned to live under the new foreign rule.

The events are described in the bible in chapters 40-41 of the Book of Jeremiah and chapter 25 of the Book of Kings II: “But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Yishmael the son of Netanya, the son of Elishama, of the royal seed, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedalia, that he died, and the Jews and the Chaldeans that were with him at Mitzpah. And all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the forces, arose, and came to Egypt; for they were afraid of the Chaldeans. [25:25-26]

The King of Ammon, Baalis, dispatched Yishmael ben Netanya, a Jew, to kill Gedalia - goading him on by telling him that he had been passed over by a commoner for the position of local ruler. Yishmael was received by Gedalia in the town of Mitzpa despite prior warnings of Yishmael's evil intent. Gedalia considered the reports slanderous and therefore took no precautions. Gedalia was then murdered by Yishmael and his men. Fearing reprisals, most of the Jews then fled to Egypt.

A fast day was instituted, called the Fast of the Seventh (Zechariah 8:19) since Tishrei is technically the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. Gedalia was probably killed on Rosh HaShanah, but the fast was pushed off due to the holiday.

This year, the fast was postponed until Sunday, the 4th of Tishrei, because no fast can be on the Sabbath except Yom Kippur (which it is next week).

The Talmudic Tractate Rosh Hashanah equates Gedalia’s murder with the destruction of the Holy Temple, citing the fact that fasts were instituted to commemorate both events.

Fasting Over Exile
The commentator Rabbi Shmuel Eidels (1555–1631), also known as the Maharsha, asks why a fast was not established for every Jewish leader murdered. He explains that the effect of Gedalia’s death was that the Jews were exiled from the land of Israel completely.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please do not use comments to personally attack other posters.