The Fast of Gedalia: Mourning a Righteous ManJerusalem was in ruins, and the Holy Temple was destroyed. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had broken through the walls of the city after a long siege, and his army had laid waste to everything in his path.
The story of Gedalia is one of treachery against one man becoming the tragedy of an entire people.
Following the conquest of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar had killed or exiled most of the Jews in Jerusalem. But a small contingent remained in what was now the Babylonian province of Judah, and above them the king appointed a governor—Gedalia the son of Achikom.
Not much is known about Gedalia, save that he was an exceptionally righteous and strong ruler. His presence encouraged Jews who had fled the country to return to the province of Judah. It seemed there was hope for a future.
Murder, Betrayal, and an End to the First Temple Period
But Baalis the King of Ammon wanted to create disharmony among the last residents of Judah, and in order to do so, he incited a Jew named Yishmael ben Netania, who was of royal blood, against Gedalia.
When Yishmael requested an audience with Gedalia, the story tells that Gedalia was warned of Yishmael’s intentions but refused to believe them, dismissing them as slander. Yishmael accordingly murdered Gedalia and all his retinue.
Fearing reprisals from King Nebuchadnezzar, the remaining Jews fled the country to Egypt. Thus did Jewish occupancy in Judah come to an end for many years to come—the destruction of Jerusalem was complete.
Today, Jews fast on the Fast of Gedalia, which is a day after Rosh Hashanah. Gedalia’s death is viewed as the final blow of the Babylonian exile, with the death of one man representing the death of an era, and of Solomon’s Holy Temple.
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