Hooray, today is a fast day!! Most people don’t applaud fast days. But last week’s Rosh Hashana holiday was in essence three days long – two days of Rosh Hashana attached to one day of Sabbath. Yes, we all prayed for a good new year – filled with good health, peace, prosperity and nachas (joy) from the kids. And I wish everyone reading this, the best of new years. May G-d answer your prayers for good.
But we also ate for three days straight. At least two meals every day, and most of them gourmet and very fattening. (BTW, my food came out incredible, B"H.)
So, after three days of briskets and beef, kugels and cakes, chicken and chocolate chip cookies, we’ve finally got a food break – a fast. Hooray. In fact, it's probably good for our spiritual side too, because we can think of ways that we can improve ourselves during the new year, without having to worry if the chicken is going to burn on the hot plate.
Actually, this fast, called Tzom Gedaliah, commemorates a serious and sad event in Jewish history. It is named in memory of the governor of Israel, Gedaliah, who ruled very briefly after the king of Babylonia Nebuchadnezzar (at left) destroyed Israel, and razed Jerusalem and the Holy Temple to nothing but rubble.
After Nebuchadnezzar exiled the Jews to Babylon, he left the poor Jews (who couldn't contribute to his kingdom) to do menial work for the occupying troops in Israel. Gedaliah ben Achikam, a righteous and inspirational man, was appointed to rule the land and the Jews who remained. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope that Israel could be built up once again.
Tragically, an enemy from within Yishmael ben Netanya assassinated Gedaliah and those who supported him.
The story took place thousands of years ago, but the pain of Jewish traitors, lost opportunities, dominance of foreign powers inside Israel and loss of Jewish sovereignty in our land remain open wounds, even today.
You can read more in Jeremiah: 40:41 and Kings II: Chapter 25.
I actually had the opportunity to travel to Mitzpeh, where the story of Gedaliah took place. Tour guide Avi Dobuler explained the story to me right where it happened.
You can watch a VOICEST-TV clip about Tzom Gedaliah here, with topguide Avi Dobuler - http://www.voices-magazine.com/index.php?page=inside_page&id=30.