Shivah Asar B’Tammuz

shivah asar btammuz
[Click here for the Zmanim for the day, according to]

The 17th of tammuz

The 17th day in the Jewish month of Tammuz, Jews the world over fast and lament to commemorate the many calamities that have befallen our people on this ominous day.

The purpose of such fasts in the Jewish calendar is, according to Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov’s Book of Our Heritage, “to awaken hearts towards repentance through recalling our forefathers’ misdeeds; misdeeds which led to calamities…”


Going all the way back to Biblical times, Moses descended Mount Sinai on this day and, upon seeing the Golden Calf broke the first set of Tablets carrying the Ten Commandments (Shemot 32:19, Mishna Taanit 28b).

In the First Temple Era: The priests in the First Temple stopped offering the daily sacrifice on this day (Taanit 28b) due to the shortage of sheep during the siege and the next year 3184 (586 BCE), the walls of Jerusalem were breached after many months of siege by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian forces.

In Melachim II 21:7 we find that King Menashe, one of the worst of the Jewish kings, had an idol placed in the Holy Sanctuary of the Temple, according to tradition on this date. The Talmud, in Masechet Taanit 28b, says that in the time of the Roman persecution, Apostomos, captain of the occupation forces, did the same, and publicly burned the Torah – both acts considered open blasphemy and desecration. These were followed by Titus and Rome breaching the walls of Jerusalem in 3760 (70 CE) and Pope Gregory IX ordering the confiscation of all manuscripts of the Talmud in 4999 (1239).

In later years this day continued to be a dark one for Jews. In 1391, more than 4,000 Jews were killed in Toledo and Jaen, Spain and in 4319 (1559) the Jewish Quarter of Prague was burned and looted.

The Kovno ghetto was liquidated on this day in 5704 (1944) and in 5730 (1970) Libya ordered the confiscation of Jewish property.

Other interesting occurrences on this day include Noach sending out the first dove to see if the Flood waters had receded, (Bereishit 8:8) in 1650 (2100 BCE); Moshe Rabbeinu destroying the golden calf, (Shemot 32:20, Seder Olam 6, Taanit 30b – Rashi) and then ascending back up Har Sinai for the second time where he spent the next forty days pleading for forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf, (Shemot 33:11, Rashi).

The Fast of the Fourth Month

The Mishna in Ta’anit 4:8 associates the 17th of Tammuz as the “Fast of the Fourth Month” mentioned by the prophet Zechariah. According to this Mishna, the 17th of Tammuz will be transformed in the messianic era in a day that”shall be joy to the House of Judah” full of “gladness and cheerful feasts”.


The fast of the 17th of Tammuz is observed from the break of dawn until night (as defined by halacha), one of four Jewish fasts to be observed in this manner – 3 Tishrei, 10 Tevet, 13 Adar and 17 of Tammuz.

Expecting or nursing mothers and those who are ill are expected to observe the fast but with lenience, refraining from meat, luxurious food and hard liquor.

Minors that are old enough to understand, though exempt from fasting, should also be fed only simple foods as a manner of education.

Unlike the two Jewish fast days Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, washing and wearing leather are permitted on this day.

Special prayers (vayechal and anenu) are added to the morning and afternoon prayers. Ashkenazim add the latter only in the afternoon service (mincha).

This day is the beginning of the Three Weeks, an annual period of mourning over the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. (OU.Org)

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  1. Thank you for clearly reviewing the historical & halachik aspects of the day. It is very much appreciated! May we be zoche to rise to the level of teshuva to bring the geulah shelaima TODAY!!!!!

  2. To: went to high school says

    Apparently you didn’t pay attention, because this article is very well written as well as grammatically correct.

  3. The first Holy Temple was destroyed because of idolatry and 70 Jubilee cycles that were not observed, both heinous transgressions in Judaism. The punishment – 70 years of exile.

    The second Holy Temple was destroyed because of baseless intramural hate, apparently a much lesser transgression than idolatry and desecration of Sabbatical years. Yet, 2000 years have gone by and we’re still in exile. When will we ever learn? Hashem despises arrogance; when one person or group thinks that he’s better than anyone else, that’s sufficient arrogance to perpetuate the exile. The result? Another Three Weeks of lamentations.

    Hashem doesn’t need the lamentations of the “frum,” the ones who think they’re “holier than thou” and allow themselves the luxury of condemning/hating/snobbing/boycotting other Jews.
    Loving another Jew doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with his practices or philosophy in life. Loving the other person is a simple commandment of Torah that Hashem unconditionally requires of all of us.

    Just remember – our sages in Tikkun Chatzot (Midnight Lamentations) say that every generation who failed to rebuild the Holy Temple is as if they destroyed it. Categorically, intramural hatred is not only perpetuating the exile, but is causing Hashem to use drastic measures to wake us up and to prod us to act like brothers toward each other.

    There’s something else that I am sure of: the tragic and untimely deaths of the Fogel family in Israel and little Leiby Kletzky in New York are high-volume wake up calls to make us come together. Enough of these wakeup calls! Spiritually, those who disdain others are dangerous to the public.

    . Please, let us all commit to strengthening our ahavat Yisrael, so that there will be no more tragedies like that of Leiby Kletzky of sacred memory.

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