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Tzom Gedaliah

The Fast of Gedaliah

In the time immediately after the destruction of the First Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) and of Jerusalem by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, the majority of the Jews who lived in the land of Judah were exiled. However a remnant was permitted to remain. Nebuchadnezzar appointed a man named Gedaliah as his governor.

Gedaliah was a tzadik, a good and righteous man. He, together with other righteous leaders of the Jews, like the prophet Jeremiah, advised the Jews to accept the yoke of Babylonian rule and instead to work towards reestablishing normal life in the country.

Unfortunately, there were traitors amongst the Jews. A man named Yishmael ben Nesanyah, a descendant of the royal family, murdered Gedaliah and many other Jews. This murder was the final blow that completely destroyed the last remnant of organized Jewish community in the land of Israel till the Jews returned to build the Second Beit HaMikdash.

The story of Gedaliah is told to us in two places in the Tanach, in Kings II chapter 25 and in the book of Jeremiah chapters 40 and 41. The following is the quote from Kings II:

"And as for the people who remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, over them he made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, ruler.

And when all the captains of the armies, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor, there came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan the son of Careah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men.

And Gedaliah swore to them, and to their men, and said to them, Do not fear to be the servants of the Chaldeans; live in the land, and serve the king of Babylon; and it shall be well with you.

But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of royal seed, came, and ten men with him, and struck Gedaliah, and he died, and the men of Judah and the Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah.

And all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the armies, arose, and came to Egypt; for they were afraid of the Chaldeans."

Because this was the final blow in the destruction of the first Jewish kingdom, we commemorate it with a fast day immediately after Rosh HaShana on the third of Tishrei. According to the Talmud, this was the day Gedaliah was murdered. This fast day begins in the morning and continues till nightfall.

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