Fast Of Shiva Asar B’tammuz
The Fast of Shivah Asar B’Tammuz is a day that commemorates the breach of Jerusalem’s walls before the destruction of the Second Temple. This day falls on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, and its appearance on the calendar marks the start of the three-week mourning period that leads up to Tisha B’Av. It begins at sunrise and ends one hour after sunset. Since it’s considered a minor fast day, only eating and drinking are prohibited, while other activities such as driving, working, or bathing are permitted.
The History of the Fast of Shivah Asar B’Tammuz
Although the breach of Jerusalem’s walls before the Second Temple was destroyed is one of the events this Jewish fast commemorates, it is also used to remember a variety of other tragedies in Jewish history. It commemorates the Roman decree that outlawed sacrifices in the Temple and the cessation of the daily Tamid offering.
This day also commemorates Apostomus, a Roman military leader, burning a Torah scroll, and the fact that an idol was placed in the Holy Temple, defiling it. It’s also believed that this day is when 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 one of tragedy and suffering for all Jews.
Customs of the Fast of Shivah 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 those who are expecting are expected to observe the fast, but with a few caveats. They are expected to abstain only from eating milk, rich foods, or drinking hard liquors.
- Wearing leather and washing is allowed on this day, unlike on Tisha B’Av or Yom Kippur.
- The day marks 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 who 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 Shivah Asar B’Tammuz
Fasting on this day lasts from dawn to one 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, engaging in public entertainment, or listening to music.