1. Every fast day includes general practices common to all other fasts as well as special observances unique to the particular day. In addition, on each fast day we will also emphasize certain facets of the common practices which are more appropriate to that particular day.

In recent years we have renewed the custom of delivering a “message of gentle reproof” on the fast day. This practice finds special importance on Tzom Gedaliah. Being in the Ten Days of Teshuvah, which, the AriZal explained, is associated with the world of speech through the supernal attribute of “Royalty,” it is obvious that words of mild admonition are especially appropriate.

It must be emphasized that the words of “reproof” do not carry a negative connotation, for they come from our “Merciful Father.” And since a fast day is a “desirable day” (cf. Iggeres HaTeshuvah ch. 2) and every day in the week of repentance is also a day of “grace,” certainly the reprimand carries a positive message.

Among the practices which are common to all fast days, e.g. fasting, Torah reading, the Aneinu prayer, increasing charity, etc., we find that each fast day imprints its own unique hue on each of these observances. On Tzom Gedaliah we can find a special emphasis in the Torah reading, the tzedakah and the fasting.

The Torah reading for a fast day begins: “Moshe implored the L‑rd..., and concludes with “...pardon our wrongdoings and our sins.” (Shmos 32:11, 34:9) The content of this section is repentance. The fast day is a day of “grace” because when one repents his sins are converted into merits. This is really a newform of “merit,” for it has the quality of “light out of darkness.” The level reached through teshuvah is so great that the Rambam tells us:

Where penitents stand the completely righteous cannot stand. (Rambam, Laws of Teshuvah 7:4)

Consequently, on Tzom Gedaliah when there is special emphasis on teshuvah, as the Rambam indicates:

Teshuvah is particularly good and immediately accepted during the Ten Days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, (Ibid. 2:6)

the Torah reading which speaks of teshuvah has special importance.

The mitzvah of giving charity applies all year round, and under all circumstances. Yet, there are propitious times during the year when tzedakah should be increased beyond the normal amount. An example of this would be on a fast day when it is customary to increase donations to charity, as we say in the Haftorah of the fast day: “Keep justice and do righteousness (charity).” (Yeshayahu 56:1) Teshuvah also needs tzedakah as it says: “Redeem your error (sin) with charity.” (Daniel 4:24)

Since teshuvah is more intense in the Ten Days of Repentance, hence the tzedakah also must be more pronounced on Tzom Gedaliah. In the Selichos prayers, recited during the month of Elul as a preparation for the Ten Days of Repentance, we say “You, G‑d, have the righteousness.” Certainly in order to engender G‑d’s tzedakah we ourselves must act with Tzedek (righteousness). When we increase our tzedakah during the Ten Days of Repentance G‑d will surely respond to us with more tzedakah!

The term “taanis” (fast day) comes from the root “inui” — suffering. This is because when we do not eat and drink we experience extreme discomfort — suffering! On the other hand, during a fast day the soul rises to a loftier scale and draws more spiritual sustenance from the fasting.

From a biological perspective we may also see that the biological life on a fast day is more lofty than on a day when we eat. When man eats he receives nourishment from mineral, vegetable and animal. These lower levels of existence sustain man’s life. When he fasts how does he live? Simple, from the energy which he absorbed into his system on previous days. Thus, on a fast day man lives on the accumulated life force in the bloodstream of the human being itself. Therefore, he is not being nurtured by animal or vegetable, but by the level of an intelligent human being — himself. Certainly on the fast day his life energy is loftier than on other days!

This philosophical concept applies more readily to Tzom Gedaliah than to the other fasts because:

(1) The concept of the nourishment of life on a fast day originates with Yom Kippur and since Tzom Gedaliah is also part of the Ten Days of Repentance it is more closely related to Yom Kippur;

(2) The energy of Tzom Gedaliah originated in the food eaten on Rosh Hashanah — which itself was on a higher plane. About the food of Rosh Hashanah we find: “eat sumptuously, and drink sweet beverages,...for the joy of the L‑rd is your strength.” (Nechemiah 8:10)

It should be noted that Tzom Gedaliah’s unique position among the fasts of the year is not only because it follows Rosh Hashanah and precedes Yom Kippur (relative to the items above); but also because the day itself has a special connotation.

According to the opinion which holds that Gedaliah was actually killed on the second day of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah, and for that reason the fast was postponed to the third day of Tishrei, we discover here the only case of a fast day which in its essence is transposed from one time to another!

On the other hand, we have the Talmudic version which places Gedaliah’s murder on the third day of Tishrei. [We should keep in mind the AriZal’s teaching concerning the Ten Days of Repentance, that they are similar to Chol HaMoed and one should not work but only devote all his time to Torah, teshuvah and contemplation.] Here we have a case of a fast day that takes place on a Moed (a semi-holiday — albeit not in the halachic sense). So we see that on Tzom Gedaliah we find positive aspects in the theme of fasting unique to this day!

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This year Tzom Gedaliah falls in the week of the portion Vayeilech. Being that today is Wednesday, the study section for the day will be the fourth reading section in which we read of the mitzvah of Hakhel. We will find that the details of this year’s designation relating to the day of the week and the Torah portion will also influence the theme of Tzom Gedaliah in a positive way.

There is a well-known mnemonic rule used to remind us when the portion of Vayeilech is separated from Nitzavim, and read after Rosh Hashanah. It is based on a phrase in a verse in Daniel (1:3) “Pa’T’Ba’G’ HaMelech” (...the food of the king). The rule sets forth that when Rosh Hashanah (HaMelech) falls on “Ba’G’“ (Bais or Gimmel, Monday or Tuesday) then we break (Pa’T) Vayeilech off from Nitzavim and we read it after Rosh Hashanah. [Cf. Sichos In English, Vol. 27, Parshas Ki Savo 5745.]

[Chassidus further explains that Rosh Hashanah “sweetens” the severity of gevurah symbolized by the gematria of “Ba’G’“ (five) and that the sweetened gevurah bestows the greatest blessings, which is why the true goodness of the ultimate redemption is closely related to our Patriarch Yitzchok. Thus, in a year when this symbolism holds forth, the day of Tzom Gedaliah which falls in the week of the separated (broken off) Vayeilech will be invested with extra qualities, for it too sweetens the power of gevurah (see above).]

In today’s Torah section we read of the mitzvah of Hakhel which has a certain similarity with a fast day when we also have the practice of gathering Jews together.

The Midrash tells us on the verse:

“When you cry, let them that you have gathered deliver you.” (Yeshayahu 57:13) Yaakov’s gatherings (for prayer) and the gatherings of his sons delivered him from the hands of Eisav. (Bereishis Rabbah 84:1)

This means that when Jews assemble and pray out loud to G‑d they effect salvation from all their problems. This is especially appropriate on a fast day, as the Rambam writes:

..The whole population should go to the synagogues and cry out in prayer and supplication.... (Laws of Fast Days 3:2)

Jews always have the presumption of being righteous and during the Ten Days of Repentance we can add the quality of being baalei teshuvah, penitents. If so, on Tzom Gedaliah when we speak of the salvation we must be speaking not of negating evil but rather of adding and increasing the side of blessings. Therefore when Jews gather on Tzom Gedaliah to fast and pray, the Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity which is generated will increase G‑d’s blessing in accordance with our supplications, reaching down to the level of simple physical needs. After all, the judgment of Rosh Hashanah is for physical and material matters; we pray for sustenance and health, etc. Thus, when we study in the Torah about Hakhel and we gather on that day for prayer and fasting the blessing is enhanced to a greater degree.

We have previously connected Tzom Gedaliah with Yom Kippur since they both come in the Ten Days of Repentance. Now, the gathering of Tzom Gedaliah may also be associated with the ultimate time of redemption. The mitzvah of Yovel applies only when all the Jews are settled in their traditional tribal lands, and we know that YomKippur is the RoshHashanah of Yovel (the Jubilee year is proclaimed on Yom Kippur)! Thus all of these aspects will meld together at the time of the future redemption.

May we leave the galus, with our youth and elders, sons and daughters and come to the promised land. There, to Yerushalayim the city which unites all the Jews and there, to bow before G‑d on the Holy Mountain when we will feel the proximity of all the Jews and yet each individual will serve G‑d in his/her own way. May this all come speedily and with the true and complete redemption, the complete people, the complete land and the complete Torah and mitzvos.

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We now turn to Mishnah Torah of the Rambam, which in its concluding chapters deals with Mashiach and the time of redemption from galus. The Talmud teaches us:

Everything is drawn after the conclusion; (Berachos 12a)

thus the entire Mishnah Torah is related to the future deliverance.

In today’s study section of Rambam we learn:

If the altar became defective, all the hallowed offerings that had been slaughtered in the Sanctuary and whose blood had not yet been sprinkled became invalid. For there was no longer any Altar upon which to toss the blood and it is said: “And you shall sacrifice thereon your burnt offerings, and your peace-offerings,” (Shmos 20:21) which means to say that you may sacrifice only while the Altar is standing unimpaired and not when it is defective. (Laws of Offerings Rendered Unfit 3:22)


Live hallowed offerings that had been present in the court when the Altar became defective, however, did not become invalid. Rather, after the Altar had been rebuilt they might be offered, for live animals did not become rejected. (Ibid:23)

Let us understand this Halachah in a symbolic manner as it may be applied to man’s Divine service.

It is man’s destiny to approach G‑dliness and bring himself as a korban (offering) to G‑d. It is here that the Rambam’s words strike an important note — that even if one may find himself lacking in some important aspect, and deficient in his preparation for rising to come close to G‑d, he cannot be rejected, for “Live...did not become rejected.”

Every Jewish soul is “truly a part of G‑d above” (Tanya 2), thereby possessing the true life, as the Torah says: “You who remained attached to G‑d your L‑rd, are all alive today.” (Devarim 4:4) By studying Torah and fulfilling mitzvos we see the G‑dly soul of the Jew express itself and function. This is especially visible during the Ten Days of Repentance when every Jew is even closer to G‑d and therefore his life is more invigorated.

Thus, no Jew is rejected! And when the Altar will be repaired then these living ones will have their opportunity for sacrifice.

Of course the promise of the future building of the Bais HaMikdash and Altar are not only symbolic but also actual, for the Bais HaMikdash will be rebuilt; from where light will radiate to the whole world, till we merit the fulfillment of the promise:

And the glory of the L‑rd shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together..., (Yeshayahu 40:5)


..for they shall all know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them. (Yirmeyahu 31:33)

May it come speedily with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

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In order to conclude with an act of tzedakah, I will distribute dollars through the “Tankist” for everyone here, for the purpose of giving it to charity with the addition of some money of their own.