Parasha Inspiration – Fast of Gedaliah

1In the seventh month Yishma‘el the son of N’tanyahu, the son of Elishama, of royal blood and one of the chief officials of the king, came with ten men to G’dalyahu in Mitzpah. While eating a meal together there in Mitzpah, 2Yishma‘el and the ten men with him rose and attacked G’dalyahu the son of Achikam, the son of Shafan, struck him with their swords, and assassinated the man whom the king of Bavel had appointed governor of the land. 3Yishma‘el also murdered all the Judeans who were with G’dalyahu at Mitzpah, as well as the Kasdim soldiers they found there. 4The next day, before his assassination of G’dalyahu had become known, 5eighty men from Sh’khem, Shiloh and Shomron came with beards shaved off, clothes torn and gashes on their bodies; they had grain offerings and frankincense with them to present in the house of Adonai. 6Yishma‘el the son of N’tanyahu went out from Mitzpah to meet them, weeping all along the way; on meeting them, he said to them, “Come to G’dalyahu the son of Achikam.” 7But once they were inside the city, Yishma‘el the son of N’tanyahu and the men with him slaughtered them and threw them into the cistern. 8However, ten of them said to Yishma‘el, “Don’t kill us, for we have stores of wheat, barley, olive oil and honey hidden in the field.” So he relented, and did not kill them along with their comrades. 9The cistern in which Yishma‘el threw the corpses of the men he had murdered with G’dalyahu was the one Asa the king had made in fear of Ba‘asha king of Isra’el; it was this cistern that Yishma‘el the son of N’tanyahu filled with the slaughtered men. 10Then Yishma‘el carried off captive the rest of the people in Mitzpah — the king’s daughters and all the people left in Mitzpah, whom N’vuzar’adan the commander of the guard had committed to the care of G’dalyahu the son of Achikam. Yishma‘el the son of N’tanyahu carried them off captive and left to cross over to the people of ‘Amon. 11When Yochanan the son of Kareach and all the military commanders with him heard of all the crimes committed by Yishma‘el the son of N’tanyahu, 12they took all the men and went to attack Yishma‘el the son of N’tanyahu. They found him by the big pool in Giv‘on. 13When all Yishma‘el’s captives saw Yochanan the son of Kareach and all the military commanders with him, they were overjoyed. 14So all the people Yishma‘el had carried off captive from Mitzpah turned and joined Yochanan the son of Kareach. 15But Yishma‘el the son of N’tanyahu escaped from Yochanan with eight men and went on to the people of ‘Amon. 16Yochanan the son of Kareach and the military commanders with him then took all the rest of the people he had freed from Yishma‘el the son of N’tanyahu, those Yishma‘el had taken from Mitzpah after assassinating G’dalyahu the son of Achikam — the heroes, the soldiers, the women, the children and the officers he had brought back from Giv‘on — 17and they left there to stay at Kimham’s Lodge, near Beit-Lechem, intending to go on to Egypt 18and thus escape the Kasdim. They were afraid of them, because Yishma‘el the son of N’tanyahu had murdered G’dalyahu the son of Achikam, whom the king of Bavel had appointed governor of the land.

(Jeremiah 41)

The 3rd day of Tishrei is the commemoration of the fast of Gedaliah. This biblical fast is found in Zechariah 8:19. It is the fast of the 7th month. After King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, there was an opportunity for the Jewish people to reconstruct a government to rule over Judea. This would have been Jewish rule under Babylonian sovereignty, much like Jewish rule under Roman sovereignty in Yeshua’s time.

Nebuchadnezzar even selected an appropriate individual to rule his newly conquered Judean state, his name was Gedaliah. Approximately 10% of the Jewish people remained in Judea, including Jeremiah. Crops could have been claimed. Cities could have been rebuilt. Construction of the Temple could have begun. However, there was so much hatred within the Jewish people that this opportunity was squandered.

The baseless hatred that led to the destruction of the 2nd Temple was already there at the destruction of the First Temple. And because of this baseless feature, political intrigue led to the assassination of Gedaliah. With the slaying of Gedaliah, the Babylonians understood that the Judeans were incapable of overcoming their petty rivalries to govern themselves. Consequently, the opportunity for self-rule was lost, and Jeremiah led the remaining 10% of Jewish people into exile in Egypt. We commemorate this tragic moment in history with a minor fast. It is appropriate that during the Days of Awe, we look to our own failings as a nation. These failings were the constant drumbeat of the teachings of Yeshua our Messiah. Shabbat shalom.

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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.