1. It is a custom — and “a Jewish custom is Torah” — to speak “words of admonishment” on a fast. Because a fast is “a day desirable to G‑d,” it is also an auspicious time for man — and therefore it is the appropriate time to arouse people through “words of admonishment.”

On a fast day itself, the appropriate time for this is minchah, a special time, as our Sages said: “A person should always be careful of the minchah prayer, for Eliyahu was not answered except in the minchah prayer.” Special distinction accrues when the “words of admonishment” are joined with the three things on which the world stands: Torah, prayer, and deeds of loving kindness. Taking them in order: Torah — the special Torah reading for a fast; Prayer — minchah; deeds of loving kindness — the tzedakah which everyone will undoubtedly give after minchah (besides the tzedakah given before prayer as a preparation to prayer).

Through this, the world is made steady, firmly established. It is made whole, redeemed — both “the miniature world which is man,” an individual redemption; and the literal world, everything of which depends on man’s efforts. Thus. when the individual redemption of Jews are combined together, the world in general is redeemed.

This is its connection to a fast, which exists only in exile. By increasing in Torah and mitzvos, through the above three areas of Torah, prayer and tzedakah, the cause of exile — our sins — is eradicated; and when the cause is removed, the effect — the exile — follows, and the redemption will have arrived.

The tzedakah given before prayer is also associated with the redemption. The Talmud states that “Rabbi Elazar would give a prutah (small coin) to a poor man, and then pray.” Since such conduct is brought as a halachah for Jews in our time, it follows that the Sages of previous generations certainly followed such a custom. Why, then, does the Talmud state that it was Rabbi Elazar specifically who was used to give tzedakah before praying?

Rabbi Elazar’s name itself gives the answer. The meaning of “Elazar” derives from the verse “Elokei Avi B’Ezri” — “the G‑d of my father is my help.” “Rabbi Elazar” thus emphasizes two things: 1) “the G‑d of my father:” the mention of the merit of the fathers, through which comes 2) the help from Above (is my help). Such help is first directed to a person’s individual redemption (“My help”), through which comes the redemption of the Jewish people in general.

The above applies to all fasts. Extra distinction is conferred on a fast that immediately follows Rosh HashanahTzom Gedalyah. On Rosh Hashanah, the creation of the world is renewed, lending emphasis to the idea of increasing in the three things on which the world stands. Furthermore, the event for which the fast was established (the assassination of Gedalyah, governor of Eretz Yisroel) actually happened on Rosh Hashanah, but, because of Rosh Hashanah, the fast was postponed to the third of Tishrei.

Similarly, the custom to say “words of admonishment” is also emphasized on a fast that follows Rosh Hashanah. “Admonishment” in Hebrew is “kevushin”, which literally means “suppression.” And on Rosh Hashanah, at the time of “tashlich”, we say “He will suppress (Yichvosh) our iniquities, and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

This too is associated with the redemption: The cause of the exile is our sins (“Because of our sins we were exiled from our land”), and when the cause is eradicated — “He will suppress our iniquities, and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” — the effect, the exile, is automatically removed.

Since the above verse is said by all Israel on Rosh Hashanah, it is certainly accepted by G‑d. Moreover, besides being said as a prayer, it is also a verse from Torah, and carries with it the authority and eternality of Torah.


2. There are additional lessons to be derived from the particular event for which the fast was established.

A fast in general is part of exile, when Jews are “dispersed among the nations.” This “descent” is for the purpose of ascent, the future redemption, when Jews will be united again. Then Jews will be on a level loftier than before the descent into exile.

This is the purpose of exile. A Jew is the only son of the Supreme King of kings, whose rightful place is with his father. How, then, can there be an exile, when Jews are “exiled from the father’s table?” But because descent is for the purpose of ascent, Jews are exiled for a little while (“I have abandoned you for a little while”) so that “I will gather you together with great mercy.”

To elaborate further: The cause of the Jews being dispersed among the nations in exile is because they themselves behaved in that way — they were divided among themselves (“dispersed”), the opposite behavior of love of a fellow Jew. Because they did not behave in the manner of “I will gather you together,” G‑d reciprocated in the manner of “I have abandoned you for a little while.”

But Jews “are all of a kind, having one Father.” How can they be divided? We must conclude, therefore, that it came about for a Divine purpose — to bring Jews to a higher level than would otherwise be possible without this descent into exile.

Thus the idea of a fast in general. What is the particular concept of Tzom Gedalyah? This fast is observed for “on it, Gedalyah ben Achikom was killed, and the remaining glowing coal of Israel was extinguished” (Rambam Hilchos Ta’anis 5:2).

After the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdosh, when most of the Jews were exiled by Nevuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, some Jews still remained in Eretz Yisroel. There they grouped around their leader, Gedalyah ben Achikom. In the words of Scripture (Yirmiya 40:11-12): “They heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Yehudah, and he had set over them Gedalyah be Achikon ... then all the men of Yehudah returned out of all the places to which they had been driven, and came to the land of Yehudah, to Gedalyah.”

This state of affairs continued until Gedalyah was assassinated by Elisha ben Nesanyah, when the descent into exile deepened. Now even the remnant which had clustered around Gedalyah were divided.

Tzom Gedalyah, then, signifies the nadir of exile. Until the exile had reached this point, the succeeding ascent could not reach its loftiest height — for the deeper the descent, the loftier the following ascent. Only after this point had been reached, could the full ascent — the purpose of the descent — start. Thus Tzom Gedalyah expresses the ultimate in the idea of redemption — for through this descent the ultimate ascent became possible.

The Rambam writes (end of Hilchos Ta’anis) that “all these fasts are destined to be abolished in the days of Moshiach, and, moreover, they are destined to be festivals and days of joy and gladness.” Because Tzom Gedalyah marks the lowest point in the descent of the exile, it follows that its conversion to joy and gladness will be greater than that of other fasts.

3. There are additional lessons to be derived from the day on which Tzom Gedalyah falls this year — the fourth of Tishrei, instead of the third as is usual (for since the third is Shabbos, the fast is postponed until the next day). There are thus lessons to be derived from 1) the fact that it is postponed fast; 2) the weekly parshah; 3) the daily portion of the weekly parshah; 4) today’s portion of Tehillim.

The lesson from the fact that the fast is postponed: One of the Rebbeim’s adages concerning a postponed fast is “Would it be that it would be truly postponed!”, referring to the Messianic times when the fasts will be transformed into “festivals, and days of joy and gladness.”

This is particularly emphasized on Tzom Gedalia, for Tzom Gedalyah is deferred every year. As noted above, the tragedy for which this fast was established happened on Rosh Hashanah, but because of the festival, the fast was postponed to the third of Tishrei. Thus this year, Tzom Gedalyah is postponed twice: 1) From Rosh Hashanah to the third of Tishrei — as every year; 2) From the third to the fourth of Tishrei.

Moreover, as explained on a previous occasion (on Shabbos parshas Ha’azinu, 2nd farbrengen), the next year’s calendar is the same as this year, meaning Tzom Gedalyah next year will also be postponed — contributing to its complete postponement.

The lesson from the week’s parshah, “V’Zos HaBerachah:” This parshah talks of Moshe’s blessing to all Jewry. As with everything concerning Moshe, of whom it is said “Moshe is true and his Torah is true,” his blessings are true and enduring — for truth is unchanging, eternal. Moreover, Scripture states “This is the blessing which Moshe blessed,” and the term “this” is used only when one can point to the thing — indicating in our case, that Moshe’s blessings are openly realized.

This is associated with Rosh Hashanah, for we emphasize in the prayers of this day that we wish G‑d’s blessings to be realized in open, revealed good — extending to the principal blessing of the true and complete redemption in a concrete, revealed fashion.

The lesson from the daily portion, the first of parshas Berachah: It emphasizes Jews’ praise and merit, as Rashi notes (33:2): “He began with praise of the Omnipresent ... and in the praise with which he opened, there is contained a mention of Israel’s merit ... that is, these people are worthy that a blessing should come upon them.”

Praise and merit of Jews is associated with Mattan Torah (Giving of the Torah), for it was only the Jews of all the peoples who wanted to receive the Torah. As Scripture states in our parshah (33:2): “The L‑rd came from Sinai and rose from Seir to them; He shined forth from Mt. Paran ... “ Rashi interprets this to mean “He offered (the Torah) to the children of Esav, that they shall accept, but they did not want to ... He offered (the Torah) to the children of Yishmael, but they did not want to.” Only the Jews accepted it, and at Mattan Torah, the Jews became G‑d’s chosen people — “You have chosen us from all the nations.”

This is connected with Rosh Hashanah, when we say, in the Mussaf prayer, “You revealed Yourself in Your cloud of glory ... upon Mt. Sinai.” Furthermore, one of the reasons for blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is to remember the shofar-blowing at Mattan Torah.

This too is associated with the redemption, for the shofar of Mattan Torah is a preparation to the shofar of the future, as stated “And it shall be upon that day, that a great shofar shall be sounded.” Furthermore, it is explained that of the two horns of the ram offered up as a sacrifice instead of Yitzchok, “the left one was heard on Mt. Sinai ... and the right one is greater than the left, and it will be blown in the future era at the ingathering of the exiles ...”

The daily portion concludes with the verse (33:7): “And this for Yehudah ... You shall be a help against his adversaries.” Yehudah is associated with the redemption, for Moshiach will be of the tribe of Yehudah. The end of the verse refers to the same thing, for this bitter exile, which has lasted for over 1900 years, is a Jew’s adversary. And Scripture tells us, “You shall be a help against his adversaries” — referring to the redemption from exile.

This concept is also found in today’s portion of Tehillim, the fourth of the month. It begins (23:1) “A Psalm by David” — the words of king David, the Sweet Singer of Israel,” who said the psalms in the name of all Jews. He says “The L‑rd is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing ... Even if I will walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” G‑d is always together with a Jew, and helps him in everything — the same idea as “You shall be a help against his adversaries.”

The daily portion ends with “Grant salvation to Your people and bless Your heritages; tend them and exalt them forever” — which includes the principal salvation and blessing, the true and future redemption through our righteous Moshiach.