Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Remembering Gedaliah, Governor of Judah After Destruction of First Temple of Solomon

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                          
Solomon's Temple, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian in 586 BCE
built in Solomon's lifetime (961-920 BCE) 

It wasn't bad enough that the Babylonians destroyed our 1st Temple, built by King Solomon the Wise, but our people that were left in Judah lost a leader who had surfaced after this tragedy.  His name was Gedaliah, and we remember him by holding a fast on the day of his death, the 3rd of Tishri, which this year falls on Wednesday, October 5th.  After having a sumptuous feast on Rosh Hashana that lasts for 2 days, we then fast the day afterward in remembering our history.
Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon 605-562 BCE
Conqueror of all lands from the Euphrates to the Egyptian frontier,
including Judah, capturing Jerusalem in 597  BCE after this revolt, and replaced young 18 year old  King Jehoiachin with his own choice of  21 year old Zedekiah, and exiled 8,000 of the local aristocracy to Babylon. 
When Nebuchadnezzar led away the upper elite of Judah and left the poor Jews there, Gedaliah was made governor, and he turned out to be a wonderful leader.  Judah was again prospering and gaining a positive reputation.  This made Ishmael ben Nethaniah, son of Nethaniah of the Royal House of Zedekiah-last king of Judah, very jealous of Gedaliah, a wise and gentle man, and he made friends with the King of Ammon, Judah's enemy, in order to take his place.

"Ishmael bided his time. Before long the opportunity which he was waiting for presented itself. He was invited by the governor to a feast at Mizpah on Rosh Hashanah. Ishmael arrived at the banquet in the company of ten followers. During the feast, the ruthless band attacked and slew the governor. Having assassinated their host, they commenced a terrible massacre. Ishmael murdered many prominent followers of Gedaliah, and put to the sword the small Chaldean garrison stationed at Mizpah. His murderous deed accomplished, Ishmael left Mizpah with many captives, heading for Ammon.

The story ends up in Egypt, where the prophet Jeremiah had warned the group not to go.  He of course, was right, as by entering Egypt, the Jews forgot their religion and embraced the idolatrous ways of that people.  It was idolatry  that "had been the cause of all their misfortunes in the past, they would seal their fate beyond hope."  The Egyptians were also then overtaken by Nebuchadnezzar.

"A few years later there was a political upheaval in Egypt when Pharaoh Hophra was assassinated. Nebuchadnezzar took advantage of the situation. He invaded and destroyed the land, and most of the Jewish refugees perished in this invasion and war. Thus Jeremiah’s dreadful prophecy came true again.                                                            
Cohens called to read 1st from the Torah (5 books of Moses) 

Why do we remember something that happened 2,578 years ago by fasting?  The fall of the Temple of Solomon was a catastrophe.  We show our uniting with these brave souls who were killed in battle, with those taken away as slaves, and the rest who were left without leadership to brave the future elements such as Gedaliah.  We experience something they all must have experienced, hunger for a few hours.  We have stood beside them for  all these years, for they tried bravely and succeeded in keeping our rare faith alive, something very special even today.                                 
Synagogue in Tunisia

Resource:  http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4825/jewish/Gedaliah.htm
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia

No comments:

Post a Comment