The Four Fasts

Holidays: The Four Fasts – Fasts of National Mourning

Shalom, everyone! There are Four Fasts mentioned in Zechariah 8:19 which the House of Yehudah (Judah) observed annually in ancient times to mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and Jerusalem by the Babylonians in the 6th century BCE. Zechariah prophesies that these solemn occasions will one day become joyous occasions for the House of Yehudah, provided they willingly walk in the way of honesty and integrity:

“Thus said the LORD 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 become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Judah; but you must love honesty and integrity.”

Please note that none of the Four Fasts were commanded by The Almighty, however, He does acknowledge them as seen in the above verse from the Tanakh. These fasts were instituted by the remnant of Yehudah who went into exile in Babylon, to remind them of the heavy price of their transgressions against the Torah. The Four Fasts are not days of rest – work is permitted. These fasts are voluntary and present additional opportunities during the year to pause and reflect upon the consequences of our actions

If observing any of the Four Fasts, please note that no eating, drinking or other pleasurable activities are permitted on these days. With the exception of the Fast of the Fifth Month (Tzom HaChamishi, Tisha B’Av), these fasts are considered minor fasts, that is, they are in effect from dawn to dusk, about 12-13 hours. The Fast of the Fifth Month (Tzom HaChamishi, Tisha B’Av) however, is a full 25-hour fast.

The Four Fasts, fasts of national mourning, as are follows:

Fast Month
Modern Hebrew Name
(English Translation)
Reference Description
Tzom HaShevi’i, Fast of the Seventh Month
Tzom Gedaliah
(Fast of Gedaliah, Third of Seventh Month)
Observed on the 3rd of Tishrei, the Seventh Month, from dawn to dusk. Commemorates the assassination of Gedaliah, Governor of Jerusalem, and others at Mizpah by Ishmael and his men. Gedaliah was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. His assassination prompted the retaliation and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
Tzom HaAsiri, Fast of the Tenth Month
(Tenth of Tenth Month)
Observed on the 10th of Tevet, the Tenth Month from dawn to dusk. King Nebuchadnezzar‘s army set up siegeworks against the walls of Jerusalem. By the 9th of Tamuz, there was no food for the common folk.
Tzom HaRevi’i, Fast of the Fourth Month
Tzom Tamuz, Shivah Asar b’Tammuz
(Seventeenth of Tamuz)
Observed on the 17th of Tamuz, the Fourth Month, from dawn to dusk. Commemorates the Sin of the Golden Calf and the breaking of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians after 18 months of siege.
Tzom HaChamishi, Fast of the Fifth Month
Tisha B’Av
(Ninth of Av)
Observed on the 9th of Av, the Fifth Month, as a full 25-hour fast. Commemorates the Sin of the Spies, and the ransacking and burning of the First Holy Temple and all the houses in Jerusalem by the Babylonian army. All the walls of the city were destroyed. The Temple treasures were eventually taken to Babylon. This fast also commemorates the destruction of the Second Holy Temple by the Romans on the same day almost 500 years later.

For more information on these four fasts of national mourning, please watch our video, WATCH: The Four Fasts: Fasts of National Mourning – Mar 03 2020.

 

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