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Tzom Gedaliah Fast Day

Tzom Gedaliah Fast Day

What, why and how we mourn on the day after Rosh Hashanah


Tzom Gedaliah in Brief

Tzom Gedaliah is a dawn-to-dusk fast (click here for exact times) observed on the day after Rosh Hashanah (if that day is Shabbat, it is observed on Sunday). Commemorating the tragic death of Gedaliah, governor of Judea, the day begins with special Selichot liturgy (click here for a Hebrew PDF).

Historical Background

After the Babylonians destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and exiled many Jews in 3338 (423 BCE), they appointed Gedaliah ben Achikam as governor of the remaining Jews in the Holy Land. Jews who had taken refuge in the surrounding lands of Ammon, Moab and Edom heard of his appointment and returned to Judea to join his group—the last remnant of the once-mighty Judea. Under his wise and pious leadership, they tilled, planted and cultivated, coaxing the ravaged land back to health.

Prior to Rosh Hashanah 3339, Gedaliah received word that a certain Ishmael ben Netaniah, jealous of his position of power and dissatisfied with his tactical alliance with the Babylonians, was planning to kill him and usurp the leadership for himself. But the trusting Gedaliah refused to believe that Ishmael would act treacherously, and restrained those who wanted to kill Ishmael.

On Rosh Hashanah, Ishmael came to Gedaliah with ten men, ostensibly to celebrate the holiday with him. While they were eating together, Ishmael and his men got up and killed Gedaliah, as well as all the other Jewish men and Babylonian soldiers who were present.

This treachery was followed by more bloodshed. It also caused the Jews to flee to Egypt, effectively ending the prospects of Jewish settlement in the Holy Land until the return of the Babylonian exiles in the year 3390 (371 BCE).1 Thus, the Babylonian exile was absolute, and Judea was left bereft of her children.

The Fast

In memory of Gedaliah’s tragic death and its disastrous aftermath, we fast every year on the 3rd of Tishrei, the day after Rosh Hashanah.2 If the 3rd of Tishrei falls out on Shabbat, the fast is postponed to the 4th of Tishrei. Like other “minor” fasts, it begins at dawn (alot hashachar) and ends at nightfall.

During morning services, it is customary to add special selichot, penitential prayers. Click for a PDF of the selichot services in Hebrew.

During both morning and afternoon prayers, the Torah is taken out, and we read the portion from Exodus 32:11–14 and 34:1–10 in which G‑d forgives Israel for the sin of the golden calf. During the afternoon prayers, we also read a haftorah, from Isaiah 55:6–56:8.

As it is written in Zechariah 8:19, Tzom Gedaliah is one of the four fasts that will be converted to joy and feasting with the arrival of Moshiach. May it happen soon.

Learn more about the life and death of Gedaliah.

Learn about the inner significance of Tzom Gedaliah.

The entire tragic story is recorded in detail in Jeremiah 40–43, and it appears in a more abbreviated form in II Kings 25.
There is a disagreement whether Gedaliah was killed on the 3rd of Tishrei or on Rosh Hashanah itself, in which case the fast was postponed to the following day (3 Tishrei) due to the joyous nature of the holiday.
Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for
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Sarah Bella Kline St.Louis Mo September 24, 2017

end times what time does the fast end in St.Louis Reply Staff September 24, 2017
in response to Sarah Bella Kline:

In 2017 the fast ends at 721 PM in St Louis MO. You can find fast times for any location in the world at Reply

Eliyanah Chicago September 24, 2017

Can we work during the fast? Are we allowed to work during this fast? Reply

Anonymous September 24, 2017

No fast links for selichot for Gedalia Reply

Hans Peeters Canada September 24, 2017

Little correction: I might be wrong but I think it should read 'ravaged land' and not 'ravished land' at the end of the first paragraph. Other than that, thank you for a great summary. Reply

Jl0903 September 24, 2017

When does the fast start and end Reply

Hessel Meilech Chicago September 23, 2017

I will wait for the Moshiah to come and then rather feast than fast Reply

Anonymous London May 2, 2017

Is it ok to have a stone setting on the fast of Gedaliah? Reply

Simcha Bart for May 3, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Yes, one may have an unveiling or erecting the monument then. Some have the custom generally to visit the cemetery during the days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur.

Reply Staff via October 5, 2016

To Alan Yes Tefillin are worn on the fast of Gedalia Reply

Alan October 5, 2016

Do you lay Teffilin on fast of gedaliah Reply

David Klein Oak Park September 20, 2017
in response to Alan:

Yes Reply

limor hiagit October 4, 2016

never knew I thought the fast was a repentance after rosh hashanah to yom kippur and it was a pre yom kippur fast. Sorry I know more about christian holidays than my own, now I know what tzom gedilah is. thanks for posting. (I am modern orthodox) Reply

Martin Weiss September 16, 2015

need ref to Josephus the details of the episode are minimal in Tanach

the details are abundant in Josephus's Antiquities, specifically, the chapter entitled

"How Nebuzaradan Set Gedaliah Over the Jews that were Left in Judea which Gedaliah was a Little Afterward Slain by Ishmael; and How Johanan after Ishmael"

Josephus's text is found in several places Reply

Ezra Midland September 16, 2015

Thank you Very imformative on the fast day, it is just what I needed to catch me up on the story again. I also forget every year when the Tzom comes around. Reply

Anonymous September 29, 2014

This is exactly what I was looking for and is very informative. Thanks for posting it! Reply

Chaim Montreal September 28, 2014

not really Secular sources are different than classical Talmudic Torah sources so they do not always agree. Even in talmudic and secular opinions you have several varying positions and opinions. Reply

Chaim Montreal September 28, 2014

Seder Olam Rabba vs secular The dates the Rabbi mentions are based on traditional rabbinical sources vs. The date you mention is a secular one Reply

Mark Melnicoff Naperville, IL via September 8, 2013

Date of Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem All my life I've been told, or have read that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of King Solomon, a well as the end of the "First Commonwealth" occurred in 586 BCE. Why is this article suddenly talking about a date over 160 years later? Reply

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