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Fast of Gedaliah and the story of Bab El Wad

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The day in the Jewish calendar that arguably gets the least attention is the same one that gets most attention in scripture—the verses of the Tanach. The reason the fast of Gedaliah gets so little attention? Location. Location. Location.

The day after two days of Rosh Hashana, right before Shabbat Shuva, and a week before Yom Kippur, our attention availability is low. And yet, reflected in the establishment of a fast day and the amount of detail allocated for it in the verses of two separate books in Tanach, there is a powerful message to this day. But first, please travel with me in time back to the year 586 BCE.

In year 586 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem and the First Temple, built by King Solomon, and took king Zedekiah and the people of Judea into exile in Babylon. There were, however, some who were left in Judea. Among them, some of the poorest and least-known families to live in Judah, as well as the prophet Jeremiah who found favor in the eyes of the king of Babylon. Yes, the Jews went into exile, the Temple was destroyed, and the country was in ruins, but there was still some hope.

“And [as for] the people who remained in the land of Judah whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylonia had leftover, he appointed over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan. And all the officers of the armies, they and the men, heard that the king of Babylonia had appointed Gedaliah, and they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah” (Melachim II, chapter 25)

Gedaliah is chosen to be the loyal leader who will assure the king of Babylon that there will be no more rebellion and that the Jews remaining in Israel will remain faithful to Babylon’s crown. It is not a perfect situation, but it is the last spark of hope for Jews living in Israel.

In a time of unprecedented destruction and chaos, Gedaliah steps in, assuring the people living in Israel, there is hope.

“Gedaliah swore to them and to their men, and said to them, “Fear not the servants of the Chaldeans; dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylonia, and it will go well with you.”

Gedaliah does not paint the situation in rosy colors. He does not need to. Everyone knows the situation is dire; the question is how ominous. Gedaliah convinces the people remaining in Israel that not all has been lost. Gedaliah urges them not to embrace fatalism. Gedaliah urges them not to run in the tempting arms of neighboring Egypt, and that patience........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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