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All About Fast Days



The 17th of Tamuz, (Tuesday, July 23, 2024, is a bad day all around for Jews.

The Talmud, (Tractate Ta'anit 26b, the Mishnah 4:6), lists five tragedies that befell the Jewish people on Shiva Asar B'Tamuz.

1. It all started way back at Har Sinai when Moshe went up the mountain for forty days.

The Bnei Yisroel panicked when they miscalculated his return by one day. By the time Moshe returned only hours later, he had been replaced by the Eigel Hazahav (Golden Calf)!.

Upon seeing this idol, Moshe dropped the Luchot, the tablets containing the Aseret Hadibrot (the Ten Commandments) from his hands, breaking them into pieces. (Shmot 32:19)

2. Despite the Babylonian siege of Yerushalayim, the two daily sacrifices of the Korban Tamid in the first Bait Hamikdash, were carried out as long as there were sheep to sacrifice.

It was on this date, however, Shiva Asar B'Tamuz, that the Kohanim finally ran out of sheep and the sacrifices stopped.

3. The next year, 3184 (586 BCE), after months of seige by the wicked Nebuchadnezzar's army, the walls of Yerushalayim were finally breached, a prelude to the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Bait Hamikdash.

In the time of the second Bait Hamikdash, 3760 ( 70 CE), Titus, the Roman General breached the walls of the holy city of Yerushalayim leading to the destruction of the Second Bait Hamikdash.

These breaks came after many months during which the city's residents suffered extreme hardships, sickness and hunger.

4. In the time of the Roman occupation, the wicked heathen Apostomos, captain of the Roman forces, publicly burned a Torah during the period preceding the destruction of the Second Bait Hamikdash. Apostomos also placed an idol in the sanctuary.

5. The evil King Menashe placed an idol in the Kodesh Kedoshim, an act of open blasphemy and desecration. (Melachim II 21:7)

Since these tragedies occurred on Shiva Asar B'Tamuz, our Sages designated the 17th day of Tamuz as a communal fast day, to be inspired to do Tshuva (repent).


Other tragedies befell the Jewish people on the 17th of Tamuz.

In 1239, Pope Gregory IX ordered the confiscation of all manuscripts of the Talmud.

In 1391, more than 4,000 Spanish Jews were killed in Toledo and Jaen, Spain.

In 1559 the Jewish Quarter of Prague was burned and looted.

In 1944, the entire population of the Kovno ghetto was sent to the death camps.

In 1970, Libya ordered the confiscation of all Jewish property.


- The fast of Shiva Asar B'Tamuz only starts from the break of dawn and ends at nightfall. (Consult a reliable Jewish calendar for the times in your area.)

- One who is ill need not fast at all. Pregnant and nursing mothers can observe the fast with lenience. One should consult with a rabbi whether they are permitted to fast.

- Children below the age of bar or bat mitzva - 13 for boys and 12 for girls, do not fast. (In some communities, it is customary for children to begin fasting a short time before they become bar/bat mitzva.)

- Those permitted to eat should still refrain from eating meat, luxurious food and drink.

- Special additions to the prayers, (Selichot, Vayechal and Anenu) and Torah readings, are added during the day.

-The idea behind the fast is to understand that the events happened because of the sins of our ancestors, to spend the day meditating on this fact, and realizing that we must do Tshuva (repent).


Shiva Asar B'Tamuz begins the period of the Three Weeks, called Bein Hametzorim, (between the tragedies), the annual period of national mourning over the destruction of the First and Second Bait Hamikdash. This year, (5784 - 2024), the Three Weeks begin on Tuesday, July 23, 2024, Shiva Asar B'Tamuz, and end on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2024 - with the fast of Tisha B'Av (the ninth day of Av), the saddest day in the Jewish Calendar.


When Moshiach comes (may it be speedily in our time), Shiva Asar B'Tamuz will turn into a day full of "gladness and cheerful feasts." (Zecharia 8:19).

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