Jewish: Promote peace on the Fast of Gedalia(h)

Jews observe a minor fast today, from sunrise to sunset. Photo by Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19: Jews are in the midst of the Days of Awe, spanning the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—and, today, observant Jews abstain from food between dawn and dusk for the Fast of Gedalia (spellings vary and you may see it Gedaliah). As with most Jewish days of memorial, today’s fast begins deep in history.

Following the destruction of the First Temple some 2,500 years ago, many Jews were exiled to Babylon; years later, restrictions were eased and some Jews were allowed back into the Land of Israel. With no leader, Nebuchadnezzar immediately appointed a Jew named Gedalia to govern the new Jewish territory in Israel. As time passed, more Jews returned to Israel, happy to live beside the respected leader Gedalia.

However, not all Jews believed the people should live under a foreign rule, and the king of Ammon (a territory in today’s Jordan; Wikipedia has details) sent a Judean to assassinate Gedalia. Gedalia heard rumor of the messenger’s intent, but refused to believe the accounts and labeled them slander; as predicted, the Judean and his comrades murdered Gedalia. The Jews remaining in the Israeli territory feared Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction to the murder—after all, a Jew had killed a Jew, after Nebuchadnezzar had been attempting to ease his harshness—and so many of these worried Jews decided to flee to Egypt.


The Jewish community suffered internal conflict. In Israel, they would be physically endangered, but in Egypt, they would be spiritually endangered. What to do? They turned to the prophet Jeremiah, who pleaded with God for an entire week. Finally, on Yom Kippur, Jeremiah was answered and he told the people they would be safe if they remained in Israel. No one listened; they fled to Egypt and kidnapped Jeremiah. (Get the story and review lessons to be learned at Later, Babylon conquered Egypt and killed tens of thousands of Jews. The sole survivor? You guessed it—Jeremiah.

The Fast of Gedalia was instituted by rabbis to recall the tragic event in Jewish history; it is observed annually on the third day of Tishrei or immediately after the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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