Tzom Gedaliah

The Fast of Gedaliah

Table of Contents


The Fast of Gedaliah is observed to commemorate of the murder of Gedaliah the son of Achikam, which is described in the last chapter of the Second Book of Kings. This murder resulted in the final Babylonian exile and destruction:

After the first Holy Temple was destroyed and the Babylonians had driven the majority of the Jewish people into exile, a small minority of Jews were permitted to remain in the Land of Israel. Also, Jews who had fled during the war returned and began to work the land.
Nebuchadnetzar, the King of Babylon, appointed Gedaliah to be the governor over the remaining population.
The King of Ammon, a neighboring country, was vying for control over the Land of Israel against the Babylonians. He commissioned Yishmael the son of Netanyah to remove Gedaliah.
Murder! Yishmael, who was a descendant of King David, came to the town of Mitzpeh and murdered Gedaliah and all those that were with him.
In fear of retribution for the murder of the appointed governor, the remaining Jews fled the Land of Israel, thus completing the exile.


The Fast of Gedaliah is observed on the third day of Tishrei, the day after Rosh Hashanah. The fast begins at the break of dawn and ends at nightfall.

* Some people will get up before dawn and have an early morning breakfast (but this is only permitted if a decision to do so is verbally expressed the night before).

Do’s and Don’ts

1) During the duration of the fast, eating and drinking are prohibited.

2) Unlike Yom Kippur and Tisha b’Av (The Day of Atonement and the Ninth of Av), bathing, annointing, marital relations and wearing leather are permitted.

3) Pregnant and nursing women, and others with health considerations may be exempt from fasting (please consult your rabbi). Children under the age of bar/bat mitzvah (13 for boys, 12 for girls) are not required to fast.

4) Special prayers are added to the synagogue services:

a) Selichot (Penitential Prayers) and Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King) are recited.
b) At the morning service, Exodus 32:11-14 and 34: 1-10 are read from the Torah.
c) The Aneinu prayer asking for special forgiveness is added to the morning and afternoon services by the cantor. An individual who is fasting includes Aneinu when saying Mincha.

5) If the third of Tishrei falls out on Shabbat, the fast is postponed until Sunday, as it is forbidden to fast on Shabbat (with the exception of Yom Kippur).

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