Today: The Fast of Shiva Assar B’Tammuz (Nidcheh)


yerushalayimOn the 17th day in the month of Tammuz, Jews the world over fast and lament to commemorate the many calamities that have befallen our people on this ominous day.

Because 17 Tammuz fell this year on Shabbos, we mark the fast day today, 18 Tammuz.

The purpose of such fasts in the Jewish calendar is to awaken hearts towards repentance through recalling our forefathers’ misdeeds, misdeeds which led to calamities.

Moshe Rabbeinu descended Har Sinai on 17 Tammuz, and, upon seeing the Eigel, broke the first set of Luchos carrying the Aseres Hadibros.

In the First Bais Hamikdosh Era: The kohanim in the First Bais Hamikdosh stopped offering the korban tomid on this day (Taanis 28b) due to the shortage of sheep during the siege and the next year 3184 (586 BCE), the walls of Yerushalayim were breached after many months of siege by Nevuchadnetzar and his Babylonian forces.

In Melachim II 21:7 we find that King Menashe, one of the worst of the Jewish kings, had an idol placed in the Holy Sanctuary of the Bais Hamikdosh, according to tradition on this date. The Gemara (Maseches Taanis 28b) says that in the time of the Roman persecution, Apostomos, captain of the occupation forces, did the same, and publicly burned the Torah – both acts considered open blasphemy and desecration. These were followed by Titus and Rome breaching the walls of Yerushalayim in 3760 (70 CE) and Pope Gregory IX ordering the confiscation of all manuscripts of the Gemara in 4999 (1239).

In later years this day continued to be a dark one for Jews. In 1391, more than 4,000 Jews were killed in Toledo and Jaen, Spain and in 4319 (1559) the Jewish Quarter of Prague was burned and looted.

The Kovno ghetto was liquidated on this day in 5704 (1944) and in 5730 (1970) Libya ordered the confiscation of Jewish property.

Other interesting occurrences on this day include Noach sending out the first dove to see if the Mabul waters had receded, (Bereishis 8:8) in 1650 (2100 BCE); Moshe Rabbeinu destroying the Eigel (Shemos 32:20, Seder Olam 6, Taanis 30b – Rashi) and then ascending back up Har Sinai for the second time where he spent the next forty days pleading for forgiveness for the sin of the Eigel (Shemos 33:11, Rashi).

The Fast of the Fourth Month

The Mishna in Ta’anis 4:8 associates the 17th of Tammuz as the “Fast of the Fourth Month” mentioned by the novi Zechariah. According to this Mishna, the 17th of Tammuz will be transformed in the messianic era in a day that “shall be joy to the House ofYehudah”  full of “gladness and cheerful feasts”.


The fast of the 17th of Tammuz is observed from the break of dawn until night, one of four Jewish fasts to be observed in this manner – 3 Tishrei, 10 Teves, 13 Adar and 17 of Tammuz.

Expecting or nursing mothers and those who are ill are expected to observe the fast but with lenience, refraining from meat, luxurious food and hard liquor.

Minors that are old enough to understand, though exempt from fasting, should also be fed only simple foods as a manner of education.

Special tefillos (vayechal and anenu) are added to the morning and afternoon tefillos. Ashkenazim add the latter only for Mincha.

This day is the beginning of the Three Weeks, an annual period of mourning over the destruction of the first and second Botei Mikdosh in Yerushalayim.

{Noam Newscenter/OU}


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