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The Somot [Fast Days]


There are four Somot that we learn from the TaNaKh: Som HaRevi‘i [fast of the fourth month], Som HaHamishi [fast of the fifth month], Som HaShevi‘i [fast of the seventh month], and Som Ha‘Asiri [fast of the tenth month]. The reasons for these fasts and their dates are:


Som Ha‘Asiri [fast of the tenth month], the tenth day of the tenth month (called Tevet by the Babylonians), memorialises the seige of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, as it is written: “Wayehi ViShenat HaTeshi‘it LeMolkho BaHodesh Ha‘Asiri Be‘Asor LaHodesh Ba’ Nevukhadne’ssar Melekh-Bavel Hu’ WeKhol-Heilo ‘Al-Yerushalayim Wayyihan ‘Aleiha Wayyivnu ‘Aleiha Dayeq Saviv. Wattavo’ Ha‘Ir BaMasor ‘Ad ‘Ashtei ‘Esreh Shanah LaMelekh Sidqiyahu [And it was in the ninth year of his (Sidqiyyahu’s [Zedekiah’s]) reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzer, king of Babylonia, he and all his army against Jerusalem, and camped against it, and they built a seige wall around it. And the city came under seige until the eleventh year of king Sidqiyyahu (Zedekiah)]” (Melakim Beit [II Kings] 25:1-2 and Yirmiyahu [Jeremiah] 52:4-5).


Som HaRevi‘i [fast of the fourth month], the ninth day of the fourth month (called Tammuz by the Babylonians, after the name of their god who is supposed to have died in this month [they believed in a god that is supposed to have been born of a virgin mother at the winter solstice, dies at the time of the summer heat, and is resurrected with the new crops in the spring]), memorialises the fall of Jerusalem; the slaughter of many of its inhabitants; the destruction of the palace, houses of the people, and the walls of Jerusalem; the exile of the king and the majority of the population; the blinding of the king; and the execution of his sons, as it is written: “BeTish‘ah LaHodesh Wayyehezaq HaRa‘av Ba‘Ir WeLo’-Hayah Lehem Le‘Am HaAres. Wattibbaqa‘ Ha‘Ir . . . [ On the ninth day of the month, when the famine was severe in the city and there was no food for the people of the land, and the city was breached . . . ]” (Melakim Beit [II Kings] 25:3-4) and “Be‘Ashtei-‘Esreh Shanah LeSidqiyyahu BaHodesh HaRevi‘i BeTish‘ah LaHodesh Hovqe‘ah Ha‘Ir . . . [In the eleventh year of Sidqiyyahu (Zedekiah), in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month the city was breached . . .] (Yirmiyahu [Jeremiah] 39:6-10).


Som HaHamishi [fast of the fifth month], on the seventh and tenth days of the fifth month (called Av by the Babylonians), memorialises the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the majority of the rest of the people, as it is written: “UVaHodesh HaHamishi BeShiv‘ah LaHodesh Hi’ Shenat Tesha‘-‘Esreh Shanah LaMelekh Nevukhadne’ssar Melekh-Bavel Ba’ Nevuzar’adan Rav-Tabbahim ‘Eved Melekh-Bavel Yerushalayim. Wayyisrof Et-Beit-YHWH WeEt-Beit HaMelekh WeEt-Kol-Battei Yerushalayim WeEt-Kol-Beit Gadol Saraf BaEsh. WeEt-Homot Yerushalayim Saviv Natesu Kol-Heil Kasdim Asher Rav-Tabbahim. WeEt Yeter Ha‘Am HaNish’arim Ba‘Ir WeEt-HaNofelim Asher Nafelu ‘Al-HaMelekh Bavel WeEt-Yeter HeHamon Heghlah Nevuzar’adan Rav-Tabbahim. Umidallat HaAres Hish’ir Rav-Tabbahim LeKhoremim ULeYoghevim . . . .” [And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, that is in the nineteenth year (of the reign) of Nebuchadnezzer king of Babylonia, Nebuzaradan, chief of the guardsmen, servant of of the king of Babylonia, came to Jerusalem. And he burnt the Temple of YHWH, and the king’s palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and the house of every great person with fire. And the whole Chaldean army that was with the chief of the guardsmen pulled down the walls around Jerusalem. The remnant of the people that was left in the city, and the defectors who had gone over to the king of Babylonia, and the remnant of the population were taken into exile by Nebuzaradan, chief of the guardsmen. But the chief of the guardsmen left some of the poorest people of the land to be vinedressers and field hands . . . .] (Melakhim Beit [II Kings] 25:8-21) and “UVaHodesh HaHamishi Be‘Asor LaHodesh Hi’ Shenat Tesha‘-‘Esreh Shanah LaMelekh Nevukhadre’ssar Melekh-Bavel Ba’ Nevuzar’adan Rav-Tabbahim ‘Amad LiFenei Melekh-Bavel BiYrushalayim. Wayyisrof Et-Beit-YHWH . . . .” [And in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, that is in the nineteenth year (of the reign) of Nebuchadressar king of Babylonia Nebuzaradan, chief of the guardsmen, came and stood before the king of Babylonia in Jerusalem. And he burnt the Temple of YHWH . . . .] (Yirmiyahu [Jeremiah] 52:12-31).


Som HaShevi‘i [fast of the seventh month], on the twenty-fourth day of the seventh month (called Tishrei by the Babylonians), as it is written: “UVeYom ‘Eserim WeArba‘ah LaHodesh HaZeh Ne’esefu Venei-Yisra’el BeSom UVSaqqim WeAdamah ‘Aleihem . . . . ” [On the twety-fourth day of this month the Israelites assembled in fasting and sackcloth and with earth upon them . . . .] (Nehemyah [Nehemiah] 9:1-10:40.


These fasts are the ones that we are to keep until such time as the Beit HaMiqdash [Temple] is rebuilt and full consolation for the destruction of the Beit HaMiqdash and our exile shall be made and the fast days turned into days of joy, as it is written in the book of the prophet Zekharyah [Zechariah], who witnessed the destruction and exile and to whom, during the years of the rebuilding of the Second Temple, it was revealed that these fasts should continue to be observed until the time of the full consolation. See Zekharyah [Zechariah] 7:1-8:23.