Fast Of Shiva Asar B’tammuz
The Fast Of Shiva Asar B’tammuz is a day that commemorates the breach of Jerusalem’s walls before the destruction of the Second Temple. This day lands on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, and its appearance on the calendar marks the start of the 3-week mourning period that leads up to Tisha B’Av. It begins at sunrise and ends one hour after sunset. Since it’s considered to be a minor fast day, only eating and drinking are prohibited and other activities such as driving, working, or bathing are permitted.
The History Of The Fast Of Shiva Asar B’tammuz
Even though the breach of Jerusalem’s walls before the Second Temple was destroyed is one of the things that this Jewish fast commemorates, it is also used to commemorate a variety of other tragedies in Jewish history. It commemorates the Roman decree that outlawed sacrifices in the Temple and the daily Tamid offering that was forced to an end.
This day also commemorates Apostomus, A Roman military leader, burning a Torah scroll on this day, and the fact that an idol was placed in the Holy Temple defiling it. It’s also believed that this day is the day that Moses broke the Tablets, or Luchot, as he came down Mt. Sinai and saw the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf. It’s believed that the sin of the Golden Calf forever marked this day as a day of tragedy and suffering for all Jews.
Customs Of The Fast Of Shiva Asar B’tammuz
There are several customs associated with this minor fast day and we would like to cover some of them. Below are a few of the customs observed on this day.
- Nursing mothers or mothers that are expecting are expected to observe the fast, but with a few caveats. They’re expected to only abstain from refrain from eating milk, rich foods, or drink hard liquors.
- Wearing leather and washing is allowed on this day, unlike Tisha B’Av or Yom Kippur.
- The day is the start of the period known as the Three Weeks. This is an annual mourning period over the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
- Vayichal and anenu prayers are added to both the morning and afternoon prayers.
- Minors that are exempt from fasting but are still old enough to understand the meaning behind the fast, are usually fed simple foods as a form of education.
Observing The Fast Of Shiva Asar B’tammuz
Fasting on this day lasts from dawn to 1-hour after sunset. Because it’s a minor fast day, participants only have to refrain from food and drink, although some Ashkenazi Jews also refrain from getting haircuts, public entertainment, or listening to music.