Who’s Fasting Today and Why?
10/02/2008 - 00:00
Gary Rosenblatt

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

After feasting for two days on festive Rosh Hashanah meals, there no doubt are many of us who have sworn off food today. But there are others who are doing thesame for religious rather than dietary reasons.

That’s because the day after Rosh Hashanah on the Jewish calendar is Tzom Gedaliah, the Fast of Gedaliah, a little-known minor fast (meaning it is “only” from dawn to dark, unlike Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, which start the night before).

The Gedaliah we refer to was Gedaliah ben Achicham, a Jew who was appointed governor of Judea by the conquering Babylonians after the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.E. Some Jews criticized him as a puppet of the hated enemy, and he was assassinated by his fellow Jews, some say on Rosh Hashanah.

The prophet Jeremiah had hoped Gedaliah would permit the Temple to be rebuilt, and he considered his death a tragedy, particularly because it was at the hand of Jews.

When I was in high school, a friend told me he didn’t fast on Tzom Gedaliah because “if I died, would Gedaliah fast for me?”

But the truth is the day is a meaningful reminder of the dangers of Jewish violence against Jews as we prepare to mark the 13th yahrtzeit of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, killed by a modern-day Jewish zealot, and as we read of increasing incidents of hostility in Israel among a small group of militants opposed to territorial compromise.

As long as the land is seen by some as holier than the lives of fellow Jews, we need days like this for fasting and reflection.

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