Parasha Inspiration – Tzom Gedaliah

כֹּֽה־אָמַ֞ר יְהֹוָ֣ה צְבָא֗וֹת צ֣וֹם הָֽרְבִיעִ֡י וְצ֣וֹם הַֽחֲמִישִׁי֩ וְצ֨וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֜י וְצ֣וֹם הָֽעֲשִׂירִ֗י יִֽהְיֶ֚ה לְבֵית־יְהוּדָה֙ לְשָׂשׂ֣וֹן וּלְשִׂמְחָ֔ה וּֽלְמֹֽעֲדִ֖ים טוֹבִ֑ים וְהָֽאֱמֶ֥ת וְהַשָּׁל֖וֹם אֱהָֽבוּ:

So said the Lord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth [month], the fast of the fifth [month], the fast of the seventh [month], and the fast of the tenth [month] shall be for the house of Judah for joy and happiness and for happy holidays-but love truth and peace.

Zechariah 8:19

In Jeremiah 40-41, and in 2 Kings 25, the story of Gedaliah is told. After the destruction of Solomon’s Temple, 90% of the Jewish people were taken to Babylon, but 10% remained scattered in and around Judea and the surrounding countryside.

Nebuchadnezzar, as was his custom, appointed a global leader of the conquered land to administrate and to bring the land back to productivity as part of the Babylonian Empire. The leader appointed by Nebuchadnezzar was Gedaliah.

The remnant that was scattered in and around Judea came to Gedaliah and unified. The opportunity for the Jewish land to remain, even though it would be part of the Babylonian Empire, was at hand. Under Gedaliah the land could be renewed, Jerusalem could be rebuilt, and reconstruction of the Temple could begin.

But political jealousies reigned supreme in the land. Ishmael came and murdered Gedaliah on Rosh Hashanah. Nebuchadnezzar had enough, and the chance for Jewish self rule in the land vanished. Jeremiah and the remnant fled to Egypt.

This tragic event is commemorated with a minor fast initiated by the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (Men of the Great Assembly). The fast was declared on the third of Tishrei as opposed to the first of Tishrei so that there would not be mourning and sadness on Rosh Hashanah. This fast is known as the fast of the seventh month, or more commonly, the fast of Gedaliah. It is one of the minor fasts listed in Zechariah 8:19, and is commemorated even until today. Minor fasts do not allow eating or drinking from sunrise until sunset. This year the fast falls on Monday, September 21, and we mourn the lost opportunity we let slip away because of sinat chinam (baseless hatred). Unfortunately, baseless hatred remains a problem among us to this very day. During the Days of Awe, it is incumbent upon us to search our hearts and purge ourselves of baseless hatred in the memory of Gedaliah, as best we can.

Shabbat shalom and L’Shana Tova.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.