The Fast of Gelaliah
Hebrew Calendar Date: 3rd of Tishrei
When it began:
When the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, he killed or exiled most of its inhabitants and appointed Gedaliah, son of Achikam, as governor of the now-Babylonian province of Judah. Many Jews who had fled to Moab, Ammon, Edom, and other neighboring lands returned to Judah, tended the vineyards again, and enjoyed a new respite after their earlier suffering.
However, Baalis, king of Ammon, was hostile and envious of the Judean remnant and sent a Judean, Yishmael Ben Netaniah, who was descended from the royal family of Judea, to assassinate Gedaliah. In the seventh month (Tishrei) of 582/1 BCE (some four to five years following the destruction of the Temple, although the exact year is unclear and subject to dispute; others claim the assassination took place in the same year as the destruction), a group of Jews led by Yishmael came to Gedaliah in the town of Mitzpa and were received cordially. Gedaliah had been warned of his guests' murderous intent, but refused to believe his informants, having the belief that their report was mere slander. Yishmael murdered Gedaliah, together with most of the Jews who had joined him and many Babylonians whom the Babylonian king had left with Gedaliah. The remaining Jews feared the vengeance of the Babylonian king (in view of the fact that the king's chosen ruler, Gedaliah, had been killed by a Jew) and fled to Egypt.
The surviving remnant of Jews were dispersed and the land remained desolate. In remembrance of these tribulations, the Jewish sages instituted the Fast of Gedaliah on the day of Gedaliah's assassination.
It is suggested that Gedaliah was slain on the first day of Tishrei but the fast is not commemorated until after Rosh Hashanah, since fasting is prohibited during a festival. The rabbis have said that the aim of this fast day is to establish that the death [i.e. murder] of the righteous is likened to the burning of the House of God. Just as they ordained a fast upon the destruction of the Jewish Temple, likewise they ordained a fast upon the death of Gedaliah.
How it’s observed today:
The fast is observed immediately after the second day of the High Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah, the third of Tishrei, from morning to nightfall. When Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday and Friday, the fast is postponed until Sunday (which would be the fourth of Tishrei), since no public fast may be observed on Shabbat with the exception of Yom Kippur.
As with regular fast days, the prayer services include several additions, including the Aneynu prayer in the repetition of the Amidah during Shacharit and Mincha as a separate bracha between the prayers for redemption and healing. The Avinu Malkeinu prayer is recited and as it is during the Ten Days of Repentance, additions referencing the New Year are added. A Torah scroll is taken from the ark and the passages of Vayichal are read from the Torah (Exodus 32:11–14 and 34:1–10). The same Torah reading is added at Mincha, followed in Ashkenazic congregations by a Haftarah reading. As the fast falls during the days of Penitence, the Selichot prayer is recited before the start of Shacharit and incorporates also an extra paragraph relating to the Fast of Gedaliah. There is no Selichot service at the time of the repetition of the Amidah.