Monday, June 24, 2013

Why do we fast on the 17th of Tamuz?

Tomorrow June 25th we will commemorate the Fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz. 

Why is the 17th of Tamuz a day of fasting?  

Five tragedies happened to the Jewish people on the 17th of Tammuz:

1. In Biblical times, Moses descended from Mount Sinai and upon seeing the Jews worshipping the golden calf, he broke the first set of tablets which carried the Ten Commandments.

2. King Menashe --a Jewish King and the worst sovereign of the Kingdom of Yehuda-- placed on that day an idol in the Holy Sanctuary of the Temple of Jerusalem, around the year 700 BCE.

3. In the time of the First Temple, in 587 BCE, the Kohanim (priests) were forced to discontinue the offering of the daily sacrifice. This sacrifice (qorban hatamid) had been given by the Jews since the time of the exodus of Egypt (matan Tora).  On the 17th of Tamuz of that year the sacrifice could not be offered anymore due to the shortage of animals caused by the siege of the city of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army.

4. Around the year 50 of the Common Era, Apostomus, a Roman captain, seized a Tora scroll and with abusive and mocking language burned the Tora in public. (According to Maimonides it was Apostomus who besides burning the Tora placed an idol in the Holy Temple as well).

5. In the year 68 CE the walls of Jerusalem were breached after many months of siege by the Roman army. Three weeks after the breach of the wall, the Bet haMiqdash was destroyed on the 9th of Ab.

Because of these five tragedies we will fast tomorrow. We will also recite special prayers (tahanunim) which inspire us to mourn and repent for our transgressions and the transgressions of our ancestors. 

The fast begins at dawn and ends with the appearance of the three stars.

 (From Buenos Aires)

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