Jewish Minor Fast Days

A brief description of all the minor fasts on the Jewish calendar.

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A whole tractate of the Talmud, Ta'anit (meaning "fast"), is devoted to public fast days, their rules and regulations, including many that have gone into disuse. Only Yom Kippur is explicitly commanded in the Torah. Traditional Jewish commentators believe that the other Jewish statutory fast days are referred to in biblical texts, but the fast days are actually ordained by the ancient rabbis. Since four of the five fast days instituted by the sages focus on the destruction of the Temple and the loss of Jewish nationhood, many view these days of mourning as a means of keeping alive the messianic yearning for the restoration of the holy city, Jerusalem. Others believe that the fasts help confirm faith in God's direction of history and God's concern with the destiny of the Jewish people.

The main biblical reference to the fasts that focus on the destruction of the Temple is found in Zechariah 8:19: "Thus saith the Lord of hosts: the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the 10th, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness and cheerful seasons…" According to traditional commentators, the first referred to is the 17th of Tammuz, the second is Tisha B'Av, the third is the Fast of Gedaliah, and the last is the 10th of Tevet.

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