A misplaced fast

This Dvar Torah is by Rabbi Ilan Goldman, former Rav-Shaliach, Bnei Akiva England, currently at Project Aseret Hadibrot.

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A unique attitude to the years cycle is taught by the Ramchal in Derech Hashem. Every time of year has its special potential and its exclusive light. This light was unveiled in tremendous moments in our history. The 15th of Nisan for instance is a time of freedom, this was revealed to us when the exodus took place, from then on, we know that we can reach high levels of freedom on this date.

Likewise, some fast days represent a time of waisted potential. On the 17th of Tamuz Moshe came down with the 10 Commandments, the Luchot HaBrit – hence it should have been a time to rejoice the receiving of the Torah, however the sin of the golden calf 'spoiled' the celebrations.

Tisha b'Av is when the twelve spies came back from seeking the Land. Hence, should have been a festival of Eretz Yisrael. However, their sin caused it to be a time of grief throughout history.

As for the beginning of Tishrei, our sages define it as the time to seek Hashem, as it says: "seek Hashem when he is to be found" (Yishaayahu 55:6). This time of year, has a greater potential to help us repent and become closer to Hashem.

The two ends of the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, the ten days of repentance, emphasize two separate aspects of teshuva. While on Yom Kippur our focus is on seeking forgiveness and atonement, striving to purify ourselves from our wrong doings - on Rosh Hashanah we focus on coronating the King. We do not focus on ourselves at all, nor do we think of our sins. As Rav Yisrael Hess puts it: 'On Rosh Hashanah it is a sin to think about sins'. Coronating Hashem on the first day of the year – elevates us to a whole new level. We now recognize that Hashem is the center of the entire world and the center of our individual world. With this in mind, we head out on our journey on the build up to Yom Kippur.

It is therefore surprising that on the 3rd day of the 10, Aseret Yemei Teshuva, we are stridently interrupted and need to focus our minds elsewhere – on the fast of Gedaliah. We supposedly put repentance aside and focus on the final stage of Am Yisrael leaving for exile. The fast of Gedaliah marks the day when he, the last ruler of Israel after the destruction of the First Bet HaMikdash, was assassinated, and the remaining people in Israel left for exile.

It seems that there is a greater connection between the fast of Gedaliah and Rosh Hashanah, than just the coincidence of the timing. Am Yisrael was chosen to be a light unto the nations. When Am Yisrael succeeds only then is Hashem truly King. The awakening of the hearts on Rosh Hashanah, the prayers and the hopes – all help, however, for the entire nation, and furthermore, for the whole world to recognize that Hashem is king, prayer itself is not sufficient. In order for Hashem to be recognized as King – Am Yisrael must become a nation in its home land. Only then can we properly fulfil the statement: "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation" (Shemot 19:6).

Hence, the 3rd day of the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, after we'd dedicated Rosh Hashanah to coronate Hashem, should have been the fulfillment of the coronation – when the whole world recognizes Hashem. The fast of Gedaliah marks the waste of that potential, for Gedaliah was the last hope we had to reach the fulfillment of becoming " a kingdom of princes and a holy nation", and a light unto the nations, in its fullest form. We therefore fast on this day to mark the acknowledgment of the potential of this day – as it would seem that on every 3rd of Tishrei, this special light comes to the world and we pray for the day when this light will be fulfilled.

והיה ה' למלך על כל הארץ ביום ההוא יהיה ה' אחד ושמו אחד
And the LORD shall be King over all the earth;
in that day shall the LORD be One, and His name one.
(Zechariah Chapter 14:9)