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In Jewish tradition, there are three kinds of fasts: statutory public fasts, special public fasts decreed in times of calamity, and private fasts. Private fasts were often observed in times of threat or danger, to display piety or to mark lifecycle events.
Fasting is an ancient rite that was often used to express devoutness, induce visions, express sorrow, mourning or asceticism or as an aid in preparation for revelation or for a sacred meal. Judaism, which is generally not an ascetic religion, employs fasting as an expression of piety for purification, atonement, or commemoration, with the goal of leading Jews to more ethical behaviour.
There are six Jewish statutory public fasts, of which two–Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and Tisha B’Av (the Ninth of Av, commemorating various tragedies of Jewish history) are considered major fasts, lasting from sundown to sundown. The other four are considered minor fast days, which last from sunrise to sunset on the same day. Three of these fasts are connected to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
A Total of Four
The four minor fasts are:
Shiva Asar be-Tammuz
, the 17th of Tammuz
: According to the Mishnah, this was the day the Romans breached the walls around Jerusalem, which led to the destruction three weeks later of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. Jeremiah mentions that the walls of Jerusalem were breached (preceding destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E.) on the ninth of Tammuz, but this event is commemorated on the 17th of Tammuz. The ancient rabbis mention other events that they believed occurred on this day, including Moses breaking the tablets of the Ten Commandments, cessation of the daily sacrifices during the Roman siege, the burning of the Torah and erecting of an idol in the Temple before the Maccabean revolt.
Tsom Gedaliah, the Fast of Gedaliah: Tsom Gedaliah occurs on the third of Tishrei, the day following Rosh Hashanah. It commemorates the date that Gedaliah ben Ahikam, the Babylonian-appointed Jewish governor of Judah, was killed by other Jews.Gedaliah’s death was seen as the moment the Jews lost hope that Babylonian domination would be stopped and the Jewish state would survive.
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