Fast Day of Gedalia – Mourning Leaving Israel (part 1 of 4)

Why do we have a fast day for Gedalyahu (Gedalia)?

Who cares about him?

The murder of Gedalia occurred around five years after the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash. Gedalia was appointed by Nebuchadnezar of Bavel, as the governor of the Land of Yehuda (Israel).  He was the son of Achikam, who saved the life of Yermiyahu HaNavi.

ירמיהו מ: ה- יא

וְעוֹדֶ֣נּוּ לֹֽא יָשׁ֗וּב וְשֻׁ֡בָה אֶל גְּדַלְיָ֣ה בֶן אֲחִיקָ֣ם בֶּן שָׁפָ֡ן אֲשֶׁר֩ הִפְקִ֨יד מֶֽלֶךְ בָּבֶ֜ל בְּעָרֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֗ה וְשֵׁ֚ב אִתּוֹ֙ בְּת֣וֹךְ הָעָ֔ם א֠וֹ אֶל כָּל הַיָּשָׁ֧ר בְּעֵינֶ֛יךָ לָלֶ֖כֶת לֵ֑ךְ וַיִּתֶּן ל֧וֹ רַב טַבָּחִ֛ים אֲרֻחָ֥ה וּמַשְׂאֵ֖ת וַֽיְשַׁלְּחֵֽהוּ: וַיָּבֹ֧א יִרְמְיָ֛הוּ אֶל גְּדַלְיָ֥ה בֶן אֲחִיקָ֖ם הַמִּצְפָּ֑תָה וַיֵּ֚שֶׁב אִתּוֹ֙ בְּת֣וֹךְ הָעָ֔ם הַנִּשְׁאָרִ֖ים בָּאָֽרֶץ: וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ֩ כָל שָׂרֵ֨י הַֽחֲיָלִ֜ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּשָּׂדֶ֗ה הֵמָּה וְאַנְשֵׁיהֶ֔ם כִּֽי הִפְקִ֧יד מֶֽלֶךְ בָּבֶ֛ל אֶת גְּדַלְיָ֥הוּ בֶן אֲחִיקָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ וְכִ֣י  הִפְקִ֣יד אִתּ֗וֹ אֲנָשִׁ֚ים וְנָשִׁים֙ וָטָ֔ף וּמִדַּלַּ֣ת הָאָ֔רֶץ מֵֽאֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא הָגְל֖וּ בָּבֶֽלָה: וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ אֶל גְּדַלְיָ֖ה הַמִּצְפָּ֑תָה וְיִשְׁמָעֵ֣אל בֶּן נְתַנְיָ֡הוּ וְיֽוֹחָנָ֣ן וְיֽוֹנָתָ֣ן בְּנֵֽי קָ֠רֵחַ וּשְׂרָיָ֨ה בֶן תַּנְחֻ֜מֶת וּבְנֵ֣י עֵיפַ֣י הַנְּטֹֽפָתִ֗י וִֽיזַנְיָ֙הוּ֙ בֶּן הַמַּ֣עֲכָתִ֔י הֵ֖מָּה וְאַנְשֵׁיהֶֽם: וַיִּשָּׁבַ֨ע לָהֶ֜ם גְּדַלְיָ֨הוּ בֶן אֲחִיקָ֚ם בֶּן שָׁפָן֙ וּלְאַנְשֵׁיהֶ֣ם לֵאמֹ֔ר אַל תִּֽירְא֖וּ מֵֽעֲב֣וֹד הַכַּשְׂדִּ֑ים שְׁב֣וּ בָאָ֗רֶץ וְעִבְד֛וּ אֶת מֶ֥לֶךְ בָּבֶ֖ל וְיִיטַ֥ב לָכֶֽם: וַֽאֲנִ֗י הִֽנְנִ֚י ישֵׁב֙ בַּמִּצְפָּ֔ה לַֽעֲמֹד֙ לִפְנֵ֣י הַכַּשְׂדִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָבֹ֖אוּ אֵלֵ֑ינוּ וְאַתֶּ֡ם אִסְפוּ֩ יַ֨יִן וְקַ֜יִץ וְשֶׁ֗מֶן וְשִׂ֙מוּ֙ בִּכְלֵיכֶ֔ם וּשְׁב֖וּ בְּעָֽרֵיכֶ֥ם אֲשֶׁר תְּפַשְׂתֶּֽם: וְגַ֣ם כָּל הַיְּהוּדִ֡ים אֲשֶׁר בְּמוֹאָ֣ב וּבִבְנֵֽי עַמּ֨וֹן וּבֶֽאֱד֜וֹם וַֽאֲשֶׁ֚ר בְּכָל הָֽאֲרָצוֹת֙ שָֽׁמְע֔וּ כִּֽי נָתַ֧ן מֶֽלֶךְ בָּבֶ֛ל שְׁאֵרִ֖ית לִֽיהוּדָ֑ה וְכִי֙ הִפְקִ֣יד עֲלֵיהֶ֔ם אֶת גְּדַלְיָ֖הוּ בֶּן אֲחִיקָ֥ם בֶּן שָׁפָֽן:

 

But he [Yimiyahu] would still not return[to Bavel], “So return to Gedalia the son of Achikam the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Bavel has appointed in the cities of Yehuda, and stay with him amidst the people, or go wherever it seems right to you to go,” and the chief executioner gave him an allowance and a present and sent him away.  And Yirmiyahu  came to Gedaliah the son of Achikam, to Mizpah, and he lived with him amidst the people remaining in the land. And all the officers of the armies that were in the field heard, they and their men that the king of Bavel had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam in the land, and that he had appointed with him men, women, and children, and of the poor of the land, of those who were not exiled to Bavel.  And they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, and Yishmael the son of Netanya and Yochanan and Yonasan the sons of Kareah and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite and Jezaniah the son of the Maacathite, they and their men. And Gedaliah the son of Achikam the son of Shaphan swore to them and to their men, saying, “Fear not to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land and serve the king of Bavel, and it will go well with you. And I, behold I dwell in Mizpah to stand before the Chaldeans who will come to us, and you gather wine and dried figs and oil and put [them] into your vessels and dwell in your cities, which you have taken. And also, all the Jews who [were] in Moab and among the children of Ammon and in Edom and who [were] in all the lands, heard that the king of Bavel had given Yehuda a remnant and that he had appointed over them Gedaliah the son of Achikam the son of Shaphan.  (Yirmiyahu 40: 5-11).

 

Gedalia encouraged Aliyah and the building up of the Land of Israel  .ישוב אר”י ALL of the Jews, who were not taken as prisoners, who left Eretz Yisrael for Chutz LaAretz (the Diaspora) after the destruction of country, listened to Gedalia and did Teshuva (literally שבו ); and they returned to Eretz Yisrael.

ירמיהו מ: יב- יג

וַיָּשֻׁ֣בוּ כָל הַיְּהוּדִ֗ים מִכָּל הַמְּקֹמוֹת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נִדְּחוּ שָׁ֔ם וַיָּבֹ֧אוּ אֶֽרֶץ יְהוּדָ֛ה אֶל גְּדַלְיָ֖הוּ הַמִּצְפָּ֑תָה וַיַּֽאַסְפ֛וּ יַ֥יִן וָקַ֖יִץ הַרְבֵּ֥ה מְאֹֽד: וְיֽוֹחָנָן֙ בֶּן קָרֵ֔חַ וְכָל שָׂרֵ֥י הַֽחֲיָלִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה בָּ֥אוּ אֶל גְּדַלְיָ֖הוּ הַמִּצְפָּֽתָה:

And all the Jews returned from all the places they had been driven, and they came to the land of Yehuda to Gedaliah to Mizpah, and they gathered very much wine and dried figs. And Yochanan the son of Kareah and all the officers of the armies who were in the field, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah (Yirmiyahu 40: 12-13). 

Gedalia was warned that Jew named Yishmael was planning to murder him. However, Gedalia foolishly refused to accept this information and was thus killed. This was the final straw that led to the end of the first settlement of the Jews of Eretz Yisrael.

ירמיהו מ: יד- טז

וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֵלָ֗יו הֲיָדֹ֚עַ תֵּדַע֙ כִּ֞י בַּֽעֲלִ֣יס  מֶ֣לֶךְ בְּנֵֽי עַמּ֗וֹן שָׁלַח֙ אֶת יִשְׁמָעֵ֣אל בֶּן נְתַנְיָ֔ה לְהַכֹּֽתְךָ֖ נָ֑פֶשׁ וְלֹא הֶאֱמִ֣ין לָהֶ֔ם גְּדַלְיָ֖הוּ בֶּן־אֲחִיקָֽם: וְיֽוֹחָנָ֣ן בֶּן קָרֵ֡חַ אָמַ֣ר אֶל גְּדַלְיָהוּ֩ בַסֵּ֨תֶר בַּמִּצְפָּ֜ה לֵאמֹ֗ר אֵ֚לְכָה נָּא֙ וְאַכֶּה֙ אֶת יִשְׁמָעֵ֣אל בֶּן נְתַנְיָ֔ה וְאִ֖ישׁ לֹ֣א יֵדָ֑ע לָ֧מָּה יַכֶּ֣כָּה נֶּ֗פֶשׁ וְנָפֹ֙צוּ֙ כָּל יְהוּדָה֙ הַנִּקְבָּצִ֣ים אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְאָֽבְדָ֖ה שְׁאֵרִ֥ית יְהוּדָֽה: וַיֹּ֨אמֶר גְּדַלְיָ֚הוּ בֶן אֲחִיקָם֙ אֶל יֽוֹחָנָ֣ן בֶּן קָרֵ֔חַ אַל תַּֽעֲשֵׂ֖ה אֶת הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה כִּֽי שֶׁ֛קֶר אַתָּ֥ה דֹבֵ֖ר אֶל יִשְׁמָעֵֽאל:

And they said to him, “Do you know that Baalis the king of the children of Ammon sent Yishmael the son of Netanya to assassinate you?” But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam did not believe them. And Yochanan the son of Kareah said to Gedaliah secretly, in Mizpah, saying, “Let me go now and I will slay Yishmael the son of Netanya, and no one shall know. Why should he put you to death, and cause all of Yehuda that is gathered to you scatter, and the remnant of Yehuda be lost?” And Gedalia the son of Achikam said to Yochanan the son of Kareach, “Do not do this thing for you speak falsely about Yishmael.” (Yirmiyahu 40: 14-16).

ירמיהו מא:ב

וַיָּקָם֩ יִשְׁמָעֵ֨אל בֶּן נְתַנְיָ֜ה וַֽעֲשֶׂ֥רֶת הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֣ים אֲשֶׁר הָי֣וּ אִתּ֗וֹ וַ֠יַּכּוּ אֶת גְּדַלְיָ֨הוּ בֶן אֲחִיקָ֧ם בֶּן שָׁפָ֛ן בַּחֶ֖רֶב וַיָּ֣מֶת אֹת֑וֹ אֲשֶׁר הִפְקִ֥יד מֶֽלֶךְ בָּבֶ֖ל בָּאָֽרֶץ:

And Yishmael the son of Netanya and the ten men who were with him arose and killed Gedalia the son of Achikam the son of Shafan, with the sword, and he slew him, whom the king of Bavel had appointed in the land. (Yermiyahu 41:2).

 

After Gedalia’s murder the Jews fled Israel and went to Egypt!

ירמיהו מא: יז

וַיֵּֽלְכ֗וּ וַיֵּֽשְׁבוּ֙ בְּגֵר֣וּת כִּמְהָ֔ם אֲשֶׁר אֵ֖צֶל בֵּ֣ית לָ֑חֶם לָלֶ֖כֶת לָב֥וֹא מִצְרָֽיִם:

And they went and dwelt in Geruth Chimham that is next to Bethlehem, to go to come to Egypt (Yirmiyahu 41:17).

 

The End of the First Jewish Settlement of Israel

We observe a fast day in the name of Gedalia, because his murder officially ended the Jewish rule of the Land of Eretz Yisrael.  This was the end of first Jewsish settlement of Israel ישוב אר”י, which originally began with Yehoshua bin Nun.

Gedalia was killed on the 1st of Tisrhei (Rosh Hashanah) or on the 3rd of Tishrei, the day after Rosh Hashanah.  This is the main time of the year that we emphasize Teshuva תשובה , returning to G-d spiritually. This story of Gedalia teaches us to also return to G-d physically to the Land of Israel; Teshuva means to return. The best place to sincerely get close to G-d is only in Israel.

 

The Seventh Month

Sefer Zacharia refers to this event about the murder of Gedalia, as the fast on the 7th [month].

זכריה ח:יט

כֹּֽה אָמַ֞ר ה’ צְבָא֗וֹת צ֣וֹם הָֽרְבִיעִ֡י וְצ֣וֹם הַֽחֲמִישִׁי֩ וְצ֨וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֜י וְצ֣וֹם הָֽעֲשִׂירִ֗י יִֽהְיֶ֚ה לְבֵית יְהוּדָה֙ לְשָׂשׂ֣וֹן וּלְשִׂמְחָ֔ה וּֽלְמֹֽעֲדִ֖ים טוֹבִ֑ים וְהָֽאֱמֶ֥ת וְהַשָּׁל֖וֹם אֱהָֽבוּ:

So said Hashem of Hosts: The fast of the fourth [month], the fast of the fifth [month], the fast of the seventh [month], and the fast of the tenth [month] shall be for the house of Yehudah for joy and happiness and for happy holidays but love truth and peace (Zecharya 8:19).

The Talmud Rosh Hashanah states that the date of Gedalia’s murder was on the 3rd of Tisheri.

תלמוד בבלי, ראש השנה יח עמוד ב

צום השביעי זה ג’ בתשרי שבו נהרג גדליה בן אחיקם. ומי הרגו? ישמעאל בן נתניה הרגו. ללמדך ששקולה מיתתן של צדיקים כשריפת בית אלקינו. ואמאי קרי ליה שביעי? שביעי לחדשים.

“The Fast of The Seventh”, this is the 3rd of Tishrei, on which Gedalia son of Achikam was killed. And who killed him? Yishmael, son of Netnaya, killed him. [The Rabbis established a fast day to commemorate Gedalia’s death] to teach you that the death of the righteous is equivalent to the burning of the Beis Hamikdash of Hashem. And why did the Navi call it “the fast of the Seventh”? Because [Tishrei] is the seventh of the months (Talmud Bavli, Rosha Hashana 18b).

 

Loshon Harah

All the Jews who were living around Gedalia were also killed. The Talmud in maseches Nidda (61a) points out that Gedalia was held responsible and guilty for the murder of his Jewish neighbors!  The pasuk calls these Jews, who were killed by Yishmael, as killed “with the hand of Gedalia”.

ירמיהו מא: א, ג, ט

ויְהִ֣י בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י בָּ֣א יִשְׁמָעֵ֣אל בֶּן נְתַנְיָ֣ה בֶן אֱלִֽישָׁמָ֣ע מִזֶּ֣רַע הַ֠מְּלוּכָה וְרַבֵּ֨י הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ וַֽעֲשָׂרָ֨ה אֲנָשִׁ֥ים אִתּ֛וֹ אֶל־גְּדַלְיָ֥הוּ בֶן־אֲחִיקָ֖ם הַמִּצְפָּ֑תָה וַיֹּ֨אכְלוּ שָׁ֥ם לֶ֛חֶם יַחְדָּ֖ו בַּמִּצְפָּֽה: …ואֵ֣ת כָּל הַיְּהוּדִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ הָי֨וּ אִתּ֚וֹ אֶת גְּדַלְיָ֙הוּ֙ בַּמִּצְפָּ֔ה וְאֶת הַכַּשְׂדִּ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר נִמְצְאוּ שָׁ֑ם אֵת אַנְשֵׁ֣י הַמִּלְחָמָ֔ה הִכָּ֖ה יִשְׁמָעֵֽאל: וְהַבּ֗וֹר אֲשֶׁר֩ הִשְׁלִ֨יךְ שָׁ֚ם יִשְׁמָעֵאל֙ אֵ֣ת  כָּל פִּגְרֵ֣י הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֚ר הִכָּה֙ בְּיַד גְּדַלְיָ֔הוּ ה֗וּא אֲשֶׁ֚ר עָשָׂה֙ הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אָסָ֔א מִפְּנֵ֖י בַּעְשָׁ֣א מֶֽלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אֹת֗וֹ מִלֵּ֛א יִשְׁמָעֵ֥אל בֶּן נְתַנְיָ֖הוּ חֲלָלִֽים:

And it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama of royal descent and officers of the king and ten men with him, came to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, to Mizpah, and they ate bread there together in Mizpah…And all the Jews who were with him, with Gedalia in Mizpah, and the Chaldeans who were found there, the men of war, Yishmael killed… Now the pit into which Yishmael had cast all the corpses of the men whom he had killed with the hand of [because of] Gedalia -that was [the one] that King Asa had made because of Baasa, king of Israel. That one Yishmael the son of Netanya filled with corpses (Yirmiyahu 41: 3, 9)

 

תלמוד בבלי נידה סא עמוד א

וכי גדליה הרגן והלא ישמאל הרגן אלא מתןך שהיה לו לחוש לעצת יוחנן בן קרח ולא חש מעלה עליו הבתוב כאילו הרגן.

And did Gedalia kill them? But didn’t Yishmael kill them? Rather since [Gedalia] should have been concerned [and cautious] based on the advice of Yochanan son of Kareach [he offered to go and kill Yishmael in a preemptive strike], but Gedalia was not concerned [said he refused to listen to Loshon Hara], the pasuk ascribes him blame as though he himself killed them (Talmud Bavli Nidda 61a).

Real Teshuva

This time period after Rosh Hashana is a conducive to introspection and Teshuva. We are cautioned to improve our speech and not speak “Evil Speech”   לשון הרעabout our fellow Jews. Nonetheless, this can be misinterpreted.

Gedalia was warned that Yishamael was planning to murder him. He refused to listen to this accurate information and protect himself and those around him. He self-righteously dismissed this live saving information as “Evil Speech”. Gedalia, thus foolishly precipitated his own demise and those around him. His behavior, finalized the entire destruction of the Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel.  This is an example of “fake” holiness with dire consequences. This can be compared to contemporary great Rabbis creating “Halachick” reasons not to encourage or mandate Aliyah (ישוב אר”י).

 

About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA , made aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He is also a active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya; speciaizing in the surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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