The Fast of Gedalya- Who was Gedalya?
The day after Rosh Hashanah, or the third of Tishrei, marks the day in which we commemorate the death of Gedalya Ben Achikam, as we fast in his honor. In the Gemara, the fast is referred to as ‘The Fast of the Seventh,’ as it takes place in the seventh month.
Gedalya was the “governor” over the small contingency of Jews who remained in Israel after the First Temple was destroyed and the nation of Israel was exiled to Babylon. He was killed by Yishmael ben Nesania, one who was jealous of Gedalya’s position of power and unhappy with his tactical alliance with the Babylonians. Out of fear, many jews fled to Egypt, causing the Holy land to be devoid of Jews. All hope was wiped out; however, it was at this point, 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, that Yermiyahu, the prophet, prayed to God for some insight and assurance. God, of course, answered his prayers.
The following question, though, becomes apparent: there have been many righteous people who have died. In fact, there is probably no day in the year which does not mark the death of a righteous person. Does this mean that we should fast every day?
The Maharsha, who asks this question, provides the following explanation. We fast on this day not solely because Gedalya was killed. His death was most definitely a great tragedy in it of itself, holding much importance. We see how great of a tragedy the death of a righteous person is, as this fast is juxtaposed with all the other fasts which commemorate the destruction of the Temple. However, the effect his death had- that all Jews left the land of Israel and went into exile– is the central reason we fast. This is what we should be thinking about as we yearn for food.
Wishing everyone an easy and meaningful fast!