Daily Israel Report

The Fast of Gedaliah: A Jewish Leader Assassinated

The day after Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish community fasts in memory of a leader's tragic death and its disastrous aftermath.
By Kochava Rozenbaum
First Publish: 9/8/2013, 10:44 AM

Blowing the shofar at the Kotel (Western Wall)
Blowing the shofar at the Kotel (Western Wall)
Flash 90

Today marks the tragic assassination of the Jewish leader, Gedaliah son of Achikam,  the Babylonian-appointed leader of the Jewish community following the destruction of the First Holy Temple approximately 2,500 years ago. Religious Jews observe the day by refraining from eating and drinking until the end of the fast at 7:17 in the evening.

Due to the Sabbath, the day-long Fast of Gedaliah, which traditionally follows Rosh HaShanah, was postponed for Sunday. This fast is one of four which commemorates a significant event surrounding the destruction of the Holy Temple.

Under the wise leadership of Gedaliah, the ravaged Holy Land was slowly cultivated back to health. Gedaliah was murdered on Rosh HaShanah by his acquaintance, Ishmael ben Netaniah, a fellow Jew who was jealous of Gedaliah's position of power and dissatisfied with his tactical alliance with the Babylonians.

The streets of Jerusalem were filled with Jewish blood as Ishmael ben Netaniah murdered hundreds along with Gedaliah. The Jews who did survive fled to Egypt, effectively ending the prospects of Jewish settlement in the Holy Land  for many years.

Therefore, the prophets declared that the anniversary of this tragedy should be a day of fasting.

This week is also part of the 10-day period known as the Ten Days of Repentance which began on Rosh HaShanah and will culminate with the holiest day of the Jewish calendar: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which this year begins on Friday evening, September 13.