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Why do we fast on the Seventeenth of Tammuz?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


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The fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz (Shivah Assar b'Tammuz) commemorates five sad events1 which occurred on this date:

1. Moses broke the tablets upon seeing the Golden Calf.

2. They ceased to offer the daily sacrifices in the 1st Holy Temple because there weren't any more cattle in Jerusalem2. This occurred during the Babylonian siege on Jerusalem, which eventually led to the destruction of the Temple.

On the Seventeenth of Tammuz the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans after a lengthy siege. Three weeks later, after the Jews put up a valiant struggle, the Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple
3. Apustmus burned the holy Torah. Historians have long debated when this occurred; some maintain that Apustmus was a general during the Roman reign over Israel, while others contend that he lived years earlier and was an officer during the Greek occupation of the Holy Land.

4. An idol was placed in the Holy Temple. This event is also shrouded in controversy; some say that this too was done by Apustmus, while others say that this was done by King Manasseh of Judea.

5. The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans after a lengthy siege. Three weeks later, after the Jews put up a valiant struggle, the Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple. [The Jerusalem Talmud maintains that the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem, on their way to destroying the First Temple, also on this date.]


  • 1. Mishnah Taanit 4:5
  • 2. As per Jerusalem Talmud Taanit 4:5. See Maimonides Hilchot Taaniot 5:2 that it took place during the first Temple


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
The fourth month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to June-July.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.