I was reading in the book of Joshua the episode in which the Israelites, led by Joshua, come to the rescue of their new allies the Gibeonites. It was Friday, and fearing that the battle might extend into the Sabbath, Joshua prayed that the sun would not set until the battle had been won. Indeed, the sun stopped until the Israelites had won a complete victory.

Now, the stopping of the sun seems to be a much greater miracle than the splitting of the sea or Chanukah or Purim, so I’m a bit puzzled as to why there isn’t any holiday celebrating this great miracle.


You are correct that this is one of the greatest miracles to occur for the Jewish people. However, the simple reason why it wasn’t instituted as a holiday has to do with the fact that although the sun stopped, and the Jews were victorious in their battle, that day did not mark an end to their conquest of the land.

According to Jewish law, when a person was saved from a danger, they have to make a blessing and offer thanks to G‑d for saving them. However, they make the blessing only after they are completely out of danger.1 Therefore, however great of a miracle it was, it is still not celebrated as a holiday.

(See here for more on the laws of the Blessing of Thanksgiving.)

This is somewhat analogous to another great event which, by divine providence, occurred on the very same day that the day the sun miraculously stopped for Joshua: the 3rd day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz.

It was the 3rd day of Tammuz, and the year was in 1927, when Stalinist oppression was on the rise. The sixth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, was imprisoned by the Communist regime and sentenced to death for his steadfast efforts to preserve and bolster traditional Jewish life behind the Iron Curtain.

On the 3rd day of Tammuz his sentence was commuted, and he was instead condemned to ten years’ hard labor in Siberia, and then to a three-year term of exile in Kostroma, a town in the interior of Russia. Then, ten days later, on the 12th of Tammuz, he would be informed that he was freed from exile (and the next day was given his discharge papers), once again a free man (or as free as one could be in Soviet Russia).

It is in this vein that the Rebbe on numerous occasions addressed the connection and similarity between the miracle of the sun stopping and his predecessor’s commuted sentence.

In a letter written for the first anniversary of his release, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak states: “Not only myself did G‑d redeem on this day . . . but also everyone who goes by the name ‘Israel.’” Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak had taken on the all-powerful Party and had prevailed.

The Rebbe remarked that although the Chabad community celebrates his predecessor’s freedom on the 12th of Tammuz, in truth it would appear that from several aspects there is more reason to celebrate on the 3rd of Tammuz than on the 12th and 13th. After all, his release on the 12th and 13th of Tammuz was a liberation from exile, and the contrast between exile and liberation cannot compare with the contrast between imprisonment and freedom, and certainly not between life and death!

The Rebbe explained that the reason for the delayed celebration is because in the case of a spiritual leader and shepherd of Israel, his entire purpose on earth is to promote the welfare of his contemporaries and to guide them. (His “private” affairs are incomparably less important to him.) Therefore, he did not institute the 3rd of Tammuz as a day of celebration, for although it was the beginning of his freedom, he was still in exile, restricted in fulfilling his very life-purpose of leading and guiding his flock as long as he was imprisoned. It was only on the 12th of Taamuz, when he was once again able to guide his flock and fulfill his purpose, that his miraculous freedom is celebrated.2