Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.


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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Fasting for Gedaliah

Today, in addition to being the first of the intermediate days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is also a minor fast day known as Tzom Gedaliah, commemorating the murder of the last autonomous Jewish governor in post-exile Judea. Even though Tzom Gedaliah falls during the "ten days of repentance" between RH and YK inclusive, it actually belongs to the cycle of fast days which also includes Tisha B'Av, 17 Tammuz, and 10 Teves, relating to the events preceding and following the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash (Temple). This strange confluence of overlapping Jewish calendar cycles, plus the fact that Tzom Gedaliah as a fast day is certainly overshadowed by Yom Kippur just one week later, has led TG to be misunderstood/ ignored even more than the other minor fast days. At best, it's usually viewed as a warm-up for YK.

In fact one of my favorite Jewish jokes hits on this subject:
A Rabbi visits one of his congregants on Tzom Gedaliah and finds him sitting down to a meal. Surprised, the Rabbi asked him why he was ignoring the requirement to fast on this date.

I have three reasons for not observing Tzom Gedaliah, the man replied:

First of all, if Gedaliah hadn't been killed on this particular date, he'd be dead by now anyway.

Secondly, if I had been killed, I'm sure Gedaliah wouldn't fast for me.

And finally, if I don't even bother to fast on Yom Kippur I'm certainly not going to fast on Tzom Gedaliah!
Despite the above I think there is a special significance to TG, both in terms of the RH/YK period and also for our modern political situation. There were some good thoughts on the former in the link I provided above. I would also add that Gedaliah's murder was the final, culminating event in the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash. And what the Jewish nation tragically lost with that destruction was nothing less than demonstratable, visible proof of God's presence, through the many wonders that occurred only in the first Beis Hamikdash. One of the most prominent was that during the Yom Kippur service, a red thread (tied 1/2 to the horns of the scapegoat and 1/2 to the door of the temple) miraculously turned white, indicating that all our sins had been forgiven. Imagine being able to see that with your own eyes and know - not just hope or believe or pray, but know - that you were forgiven!

As for the political lesson, well, Gedaliah's murder was caused by his sincere, yet naive belief that his enemies desired peace, despite the clear warnings and obvious signs to the contrary. Nothing new under the sun, indeed. May our leaders someday - soon! - learn the lesson that Gedaliah didn't! Meanwhile, if you're fasting today, have a meaningful one.

6 Comments:

At 10/6/05, 1:24 PM, Blogger jlmkobi said...

hi shana tova
i occassionally read your blog and enjoy it.
one comment - gedaliah's murder was not 'caused' by his ... belief. it was caused by the beliefs (fanatical)and actions of his murderers - that only one of the davidic line could lead the jewish people. here in israel the day is marked by the comparison to the murder of Yizhak Rabin. One of my kids is right now dialoging.
Kobi

 
At 10/6/05, 1:35 PM, Blogger Elie said...

You have a good point - my wording was somewhat blaming the victim. However I do feel that the incident is a warning against naivete. "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me", as Scotty famously stated. Yet we keep fooling ourselves over and over again!

 
At 10/6/05, 4:56 PM, Anonymous Tova Menken said...

Regarding your post about Gedalia - I just went over the Pesukim in Sefer Melachim II with one of my Navi classes today, and it seems that Gedalia was in general a peace advocate. He told the Jewish community not to fear the Casdi (or Chaldean) mercenaries of Bavel because as long as they served the king of Bavel they could stay in E"Y in peace. It reminded me of the difference of opinion between the Perushim and the Beryonim right before the Churban Bayis Sheini. The perushim/talmidei chachamim advocated peace and the Biryonim advocated rebellion against the Romans. I told my class, however, that each generation has to consult with its own Rabbonim regarding the issue of seeking peace versus fightring back. Peace certainly hasn't done well for the peace process in our day!! Also, I certainly made clear that Gedalia was wrong for not taking precautions when he heard of Yishmael's plans.

 
At 10/6/05, 7:26 PM, Blogger Mirty said...

I had confused this fast day with the one that's only for oldest sons. (But I think that's before Pesach.) I have a really hard time with fasting, mostly due to caffeine-withdrawal headaches. :-(

 
At 10/6/05, 9:41 PM, Blogger Attila said...

I've heard the first two reasons for not fasting, told to me independent of the joke, but the third is definitely a punch line.

 
At 10/20/05, 9:13 AM, Blogger benros52589 said...

when my rebbi taught me in navi that gedaliya died he was very emotional hope no one goes throught that story tis hard to grasp

 

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