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17th of Tammuz: History, Laws and Customs

17th of Tammuz: History, Laws and Customs

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The fast of the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, known as Shivah Asar B’Tammuz, is the start of a three-week mourning period for the destruction of Jerusalem and the two Holy Temples.

The fast actually commemorates five tragic events that occurred on this date:

  1. Moses broke the tablets when he saw the Jewish people worshipping the Golden Calf.
  2. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, the Jews were forced to cease offering the daily sacrifices due to the lack of sheep.
  3. Apostomos burned the holy Torah.1
  4. An idol was placed in the Holy Temple.2
  5. The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans, in 69 CE, after a lengthy siege. (Three weeks later, after the Jews put up a valiant struggle, the Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple on the 9th of Av.)
    The Jerusalem Talmud maintains that this is also the date when the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem on their way to destroying the first Temple.

Practically speaking:

  • Healthy A fast day is an auspicious day, a day when G‑d is accessible, waiting for us to repentadults—bar- or bat-mitzvah age and older—abstain from eating or drinking between dawn and nightfall. Click here for exact times in your location.
  • Pregnant and nursing women may not have to fast. Someone who is ill should consult with a rabbi. Even those exempt from fasting, such as ill people or children, shouldn’t indulge in delicacies or sweets.
  • It is permitted to wake up early before the fast begins and eat, provided that prior to going to sleep one had in mind to do so.
  • During the morning prayers we recite selichot (penitential prayers), printed in the back of the prayerbook. The “long Avinu Malkeinu” is recited during the morning and afternoon prayers.
  • The Torah is read during the morning and afternoon prayers. The reading—the same for both morning and afternoon—is Exodus 32:11–14 and 34:1–10, which discusses the aftermath of the Golden Calf incident, how Moses successfully interceded on the Israelites’ behalf and attained forgiveness for their sin. After the afternoon Torah reading, the special fast-day haftarah, Isaiah 55:6–56:8, is read.
  • During the Amidah prayer of the afternoon service (Minchah), those who are fasting add the paragraph Aneinu in the Shema Koleinu blessing. (It is also added in the cantor’s repetition of the Amidah in both the morning and afternoon services, as its own blessing between the blessings of Re’eh and Refa’einu.) Additionally, the priestly blessing is also added in the repetition of the Amidah in the afternoon service.
  • If the 17th of Tammuz falls on Shabbat, the fast is postponed until Sunday. Click here for more about this Shabbat.

Abstaining from food and drink is the external element of a fast day. On a deeper level, a fast day is an auspicious day, a day when G‑d is accessible, waiting for us to repent.

The sages explain: “Every generation for which the Temple is not rebuilt, it is as though the Temple was destroyed for that generation.” A fast day is not only a sad day, but an opportune day. It’s a day when we are empowered to fix the cause of that destruction, so that our long exile will be ended and we will find ourselves living in messianic times; may that be very soon.

Footnotes
1.

Historians have long debated when this occurred: some maintain that Apostomos was a general during the Roman occupation of Israel, while others contend that he lived years earlier and was an officer during the Greek reign over the Holy Land.

2.

This event is also shrouded in controversy: some say that this too was done by Apostomos, while others say that this was done by King Manasseh of Judea.

Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Simcha Bart for Chabad.org July 26, 2016

This can be found in Parshat Ki Tisa in Shemot (Exodus) chapter 32 verse 19 after Moses descended from Mt. Sinai:
"Now it came to pass when he drew closer to the camp and saw the calf and the dances, that Moses' anger was kindled, and he flung the tablets from his hands, shattering them at the foot of the mountain."
You can find this as well in Parshat Ekev in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 9:17:
"So I grasped the two tablets, cast them out of my two hands, and shattered them before your eyes."
Reply

Me Montreal July 25, 2016

Please tell me where it's mentioned that Moshe dropped the tablets. Reply

Chabad.org Staff July 24, 2016

Yes, meat can be eaten today by those who need not fast. We refrain from eating meat during the Nine Days prior to the fast of Nine Av. Reply

Anonymous July 24, 2016

Can one who is not fasting eat meat today? Reply

arden canada July 24, 2016

are marital relations permitted? encouraged? Frowned apon? Reply

Anonymous July 24, 2016

Can you water paint if it's a hobby that you have just begun to take up? Reply

Chabad.org Staff July 24, 2016

Fasting includes refraining from drinking sorry! No water allowed. Reply

Anonymous PR July 24, 2016

Can we drink water today? Reply

Chabad.org Staff July 24, 2016

Yes you may do laundry today. Reply

Chabad.org Staff July 24, 2016

Yes Tefillin are worn as usual. Reply

Anonymous July 24, 2016

Are tefillin worn in shachrit, mincha or both on shiva asar b'tamuz? Reply

Anonymous Israel July 24, 2016

Laundry permitted on 17th of Tammuz? Reply

Eion Melbourne July 22, 2016

The deportations to the gas chambers en masses started in time .
From Warsaw and other Polish Jewish ghettos but also before .
The catastrophe has to be added . Reply

Simcha Bart for Chabad.org Los Angeles July 19, 2016

The fast of the 17th of Tammuz is not a day when "work" is prohibited, therefore normally we could drive. (This year 5776/2016 the 17th of Tammuz coincides with Shabbat [and is thus postponed to Sunday], thus it would be prohibited to drive on the 17th because of Shabbat.) The only fast day when we are prohibited from driving is Yom Kippur.
Reply

mark July 18, 2016

is driving allowed on the 17th of tammuz? Reply

Chabad.org Staff July 5, 2015

The fast ends at 8:43PM in Mexico City. To find times for any location in the world please see this link. Reply

Anonymous Mexico city July 5, 2015

Does anybody know when does the fast end in mexico city???? Reply

Chabad.org Staff July 5, 2015

Yes, Tefillin are worn during the Three Weeks. They are not worn for morning services on the fast of Nine Av. Reply

Anonymous weston July 5, 2015

Are tefillin worn during the three weeks? Reply

Randa R Wheat Dacula July 17, 2014

Today July 17th the plane shot down---an international event---was Malaysian flight #17 Repentance is needed Reply