Four Fasts

Holidays: The Four Fasts

Shalom everyone! There are Four Fasts mentioned in Zechariah 8:19 which the House of Yehudah (Judah) observed annually in ancient times to mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and Jerusalem by the Babylonians in the 6th century BCE. Zechariah prophesies that these solemn occasions will one day become joyous occasions for the House of Yehudah, provided they willingly walk in the way of honesty and integrity:

“Thus said the LORD of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month, the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Judah; but you must love honesty and integrity.”

Please note that none of the Four Fasts were commanded by YAH, however, He does acknowledge them as seen in the above verse from the Tanakh. These fasts were instituted by the remnant of Yehudah who went into exile in Babylon, to remind them of the heavy price of their transgressions against the Torah. The Four Fasts are not mandatory, neither are they days of rest – work is permitted. These fasts are voluntary and present additional opportunities during the year to pause and reflect upon the consequences of our actions

If observing any of the Four Fasts, please note that no eating, drinking or other pleasurable activities are permitted on these days. With the exception of the Fast of the Fifth Month (Tisha B’Av), these fasts are considered minor fasts, that is, they are in effect from dawn to dusk, about 12-13 hours. Tisha B’Av, however, is a full 25-hour fast.

The Four Fasts as are follows:

Fast Month
Modern Hebrew Name
(English Translation)
Reference Description
Fast of the Fourth Month
Shivah Asar b’Tamuz
(Seventh of Tamuz)
Observed on the 17th of the Fourth Month (17 of Tamuz) from dawn to dusk. Commemorates the breaking of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians after 16 months of siege.
Fast of the Fifth Month
Tisha b’Av
(Ninth of Av)
Observed on the 9th/10th of the Fifth Month (9/10 of Av) as a full 25-hour fast. Commemorates the ransacking and burning of the Holy Temple and all the houses in Jerusalem by Nebuzaradan, the chief of the guards of Babylonian forces and King Nebuchadnezzar‘s representative in Jerusalem. All the walls of the city were destroyed. The Temple treasures were eventually taken to Babylon.
Fast of the Seventh Month
Tzom Gedeliah
(Fast of Gedeliah)
 Observed on the 3rd of the Seventh Month (3 of Ethanim/Tishrei) from dawn to dusk. Commemorates the assassination of Gedeliah, Governor of Jerusalem, and others at Mizpah by Ishmael and his men. Gedeliah was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. His assassination prompted the later retaliation and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
Fast of the Tenth Month
Asara B’Tevet
(Tenth of Tevet)
Observed on the 10th of the Tenth Month (10 of Tevet) from dawn to dusk.  King Nebuchadnezzar‘s army set up siege works against the walls of Jerusalem. By the 9th of the Fourth Month, there was no food for the common folk.