SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8: As observant Jews pause after Rosh Hashanah and await Yom Kippur, a fast is observed from sunrise to sunset. This is the Fast of Gedaliah—commonly spelled either with or without an “h”—recalling the killing of an ancient figure named Gedaliah ben Ahikam. This happened during the period when Babylon was taking over the Jewish homeland. The killing of Gedaliah represented the end of any vestige of Jewish rule in Judah.
Note: The Fast of Gedaliah is observed one day later than usual this year, since Rosh Hashanah is observed on a Thursday and Friday and this fast is forbidden on a Shabbat (Saturday).
The Jewish learning organization Aish.com provides a fuller version of the tragic end of Gedaliah. One of several lessons Aish draws from the ancient story is this: “The Jewish people had sunk to one of their lowest levels in history. The Temple was destroyed, the majority of Jews were exiled, and things looked hopeless. … It was at this point that Jeremiah prayed to God for some insight and assurance. This was during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This story is memorialized to teach us an important message for these days: No matter how far away you are, you can return and God will forgive you.”