Gedaliah Fast is on September 18 this year. Also called ‘fast of the seventh month,’ it commemorates Gedaliah Ben Ahikam’s murder and the tragic consequences for the Jewish people. But why, of all the great Biblical figures, is this man’s death remembered? Why does Gedaliah, a man most of us haven’t heard of, have his own fast? And why is this fast day so close to Rosh Hashanah? After delving further into the Gedaliah story, we realize that Gedaliah is more than just a commemoration of a historical tragedy; the man himself represents a key turning point in the history of the Jewish people.
History of Gedaliah Fast
The Fast of Gedaliah, or Tzom Gedaliah in Hebrew, is one of four fast days created by the Rabbis to mourn the Temple’s (Beit HaMikdash) destruction and subsequent exile from Israel. It is held on the third of Tishrei, the day after Rosh Hashanah, and lasts from sunrise to sundown. The story of Gedaliah’s assassination is told briefly towards the end of Kings 2, 25:22-26. Jeremiah 41 contains a more thorough account of the event.
After the Babylonian monarch Nebuchadnezzar demolished the first Temple in Jerusalem, he exiled the Jews. However, a limited number of Jews were permitted to remain in the region under the administration of Gedaliah, a Babylonian-appointed Jewish governor. Gedaliah was a just ruler, and the Jews were able to live in peace under his rule. Indeed, many Jews returned from exile, and the region flourished. While this could not compensate for the Temple’s loss, it was a welcome departure from the tremendous struggles and oppression of their recent history.
Unfortunately, this reprieve was short-lived. The king of Ammon persuaded a fellow Jew, Yishmael Ben Nethaniah, to slay Gedaliah for political reasons. Yishmael slaughtered not only Gedaliah but also numerous Jews and Babylonians who were accompanying Gedaliah. Fearing reprisal from Nebuchadnezzar, the last Jews escaped to Egypt, effectively ending the exile.
Even though a fast day is named in his honor, nothing is known about Gedaliah Ben Ahikam. We’re told that Gedaliah was warned about the plot on his life, but he dismissed the allegations as slander. Instead, he eagerly welcomed Yishmael Ben Netaniah into his home as his Rosh Hashanah guest, an act of generosity that cost him his life.
Though Gedaliah’s trust was misplaced in this circumstance, it reveals a lot about his personality. He was so careful not to judge another Jew or suspect another’s motivations that he deliberately confronted a possibly perilous situation rather than insult a guest. Gedaliah might also be viewed as an example of national loyalty. We would not be observing Tzom Gedaliah today if all Jews took his viewpoint.
Gedaliah Fast timeline
Following the capture of Jerusalem, the Babylonians chose Gedaliah as ruler of Judah.
His assassination occurred in the same year of the demolition of the Temple and was carried out by a group of Jews organized by Yishmael, few months after his appointment.
A stamp impression discovered at Lachish (southwest of Jerusalem) carries the inscription, "Gedalyahu, who is over the house" — the title refers to a position in the king's court as a key cabinet member.
The narrative of the conspiracy is described in great detail in Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews.
Gedaliah Fast FAQs
What does the name Gedaliah mean?
Gedaliah is a Hebrew given name that has been given to various men throughout history. It translates as “made great by God.”
How long should one fast for?
The majority of these regimens recommend fasting for 8 to 24 hours. Some people, on the other hand, choose to fast for 48 or even 72 hours. Fasting difficulties are more likely to occur if you fast for an extended amount of time.
What can Jews eat during fasting?
Throughout a Jewish fast, no food or drink, including bread and water, is ingested. The biggest fasts extend over 25 hours, beginning before nightfall the night before and ending after sundown the day of the fast. Four other shorter fasts take place during the year, beginning before daybreak and ending after nightfall.
How To Observe Gedaliah Fast
Set your objectives right
If you want to fast on this day, you must first answer the question, "Why are you fasting?" Is it for spiritual rejuvenation, guidance, healing, problem resolution, or special grace in dealing with a challenging situation? During this period, the Jewish people had reached one of their lowest points in history, and it was at this point that Jeremiah turned to God for guidance and assurance.
Make your commitments
You must decide how long you will fast. Though the Jewish Gedalia fast lasts from early in the morning until late at night, you are free to choose a time frame that works for you because it is not required to observe the sunrise to sunset law. Decide what physical or social activities you will limit.
Show some charity and donations
During this festival, you can be generous and increase your philanthropic actions if you can. Consider donating to one of these top-rated charity homes, as this will help to alleviate poverty and hunger around the world.
5 Awesome Facts About Fasting That Will Blow Your Mind
It speeds up metabolism
Intermittent fasting allows your digestive system to rest, which might energize your metabolism and allow you to burn calories more efficiently.
It promotes longevity
The less you eat, believe it or not, the longer you will live and several studies have demonstrated that various civilizations' diets extended people's lifespan — the less you consume, the less strain your digestive system bears.
It improves brain function
Fasting has been proven to increase brain function by increasing the synthesis of a protein known as a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF.)
It contributes to self-enlightenment
Fasting has made many people feel more connected to life through practices such as reading, meditation, yoga, and martial arts, among others.
There is medical fasting
Fasting has been used therapeutically since at least the 5th century B.C. when Greek physician Hippocrates advised abstinence from food or drink for patients exhibiting particular symptoms of sickness.
Why Gedaliah Fast is Important
Never too late to acknowledge wrongdoing and seek forgiveness
The Jewish people had fallen to their lowest point in history. The Temple had been demolished, the majority of Jews had been deported, and things were grim. But God intervened and appointed the virtuous Gedalia in their difficult position. However, Gedalia was slain by a Jew, and all hope was lost. This narrative is remembered to teach us an essential lesson for these times: no matter how far you have traveled, you may return and God will forgive you.
Life does not give all that we want
The Jews who went to Jeremiah for assistance were implicitly certain that God would give them the response they desired. As a result, when God provided a different response, they rebelled. Nonetheless, these were not wicked individuals. What transpired? The lesson is that connecting oneself to God entails following Him at all times, not only when it coincides with what one desires. Because life does not always offer us what we desire, all we can do is keep hoping and staying positive.
There is no excuse for violence
When one Jew murders another, it is a deep, horrific tragedy with far-reaching historical ramifications. There is no justification for such violence. Do we disagree on philosophical and political issues? We must work through them with patience and understanding. It is the only way that is acceptable.
Gedaliah Fast dates