The Fast of Gedalya (Hebrew:צום גדליה – Tzom Gedalya) is a Jewish fast day from dawn until dusk to lament the assassination of the righteous governor of Judah of that name, which ended Jewish rule following the destruction of the First Temple.
Gedalya is mentioned in twice in the Bible: in Jeremiah 40 and in Kings II 25.
According to Kings II, on the third of Tishrei, Yishmael treacherously killed Gedalya as well as many other Jews and Babylonians.
In the aftermath of Gedalya ‘s murder, the Jews feared reprisal from the King of Babylon. They thought to flee to Egypt to save themselves. They turned to the prophet Jeremiah, who was secluded in mourning, to ask for advice.
For an entire week, Jeremiah pleaded with God for an answer. Finally, on Yom Kippur, he was answered. Jeremiah called the Jews and told them to stay in Israel and everything would be fine. God was planning to make the Babylonians act mercifully toward the Jews, and before long, all the exiled Jews would be permitted to return to their own soil. But, Jeremiah told them, if the Jews decided to go to Egypt, the sword from which they were running would kill them there.
Unfortunately, the prophet’s words did not penetrate, and the people refused to believe. All the Jews remaining in Israel packed their bags and went down to Egypt. The destruction was complete; the Land of Israel was completely barren.
A few years later, Babylon conquered Egypt and tens of thousands of Jewish exiles were completely wiped out. Jeremiah’s prophecy had become painfully true.
The murder of Gedalya has been likened to the destruction of the Holy Temple, because it cost Jewish lives and brought the end of Jewish settlement in Israel for many years. The prophets therefore declared that the anniversary of this tragedy should be a day of fasting.
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