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The Fast of Gedalia

commemorates a tragedy in Jewish history whose message reverberates for us today.


The day after Rosh Hashanah marks the Fast of Gedalia, one of the “minor fast days” in the Jewish calendar year. The fast begins in the early morning at dawn, and ends in the evening at dusk.

What is the meaning of this fast, and why does it occur during the intermediate days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

The Story of Gedalia

After the destruction of the First Temple 2,500 years ago, the majority of the Jewish people were exiled to Babylon. The conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar, eventually eased some of his harsh restrictions and allowed some Jews to remain in the Land of Israel. He even appointed a righteous Jew named Gedalia to administer the territory. Gradually, more Jews who’d escaped from the horrors of the war into neighboring countries began to return to their homes in Israel.

Gedalia was realistic about the limitations of Jewish sovereignty. He understood that for their own self-preservation, the Jews in Israel needed to fully cooperate with the nation who had conquered their land.

But this political subservience was intolerable to some Jews. A man named Yishmael ben Netaniah, spurred on by jealousy and foreign influence, arose and ignored the King of Babylon. On the third of Tishrei, Yishmael treacherously


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