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Gedaliah was informed that Yishmael ben Nesania was going to try to kill him. He ignored this, thinking it a lie (Yirmiyahu 40:16). Because of this mistake, the Torah (Yirmiyahu 41:9) attributes Yishmael's murders to Gedalia (Nidah 61a).

Yet we fast on the day of his death, and not just because of the massacre that took place, or the loss of what little self-governance was left. We call the fast day "The Fast of Gedaliah," not "The Third of Tishrei." Furthermore, Gedaliah's death is equated to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (Rosh Hashanah 18b).

Why is Gedaliah given such great honor and recognition? Seemingly, G-d (and the Rabbis) didn't think too highly of him at all. We honor him with a fast day named for him; the only person in fact, besides Esther, to have this honor, which not even the greatest of the Neviim and Nesiim have.

Any insight?

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"With Gedalyah's death, the last ember of Jewish autonomy in the aftermath of the destruction of the first Beis ha-Mikdash was extinguished. Thousands were killed, and those who remained alive were driven into exile.... Thus, the remnant that had been left in the land was dispersed and the land was left desolate." - The Book of Our Heritage, Eliyahu Kitov, pp. 47-48 –  Fred Sep 11 '13 at 5:19
    
??? A day of national mourning commemorating widespread destruction caused by my being an idiot is not my idea of getting a postmortem "honor". –  Double AA Sep 11 '13 at 5:36
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Hello Mischa Nezkee, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thank you for your timely question! Your question seems to be quite good, but it's lacking some explanatory background, which could make it difficult for the unfamiliar to understand. I'm editing it to add some quotes and such; feel free to add more. I hope to see you around the site! –  HodofHod Sep 11 '13 at 5:51

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The Maharsha (Rosh HaShana 18b, s.v. U'mee harago)1, on the premise that Gedalya was in fact righteous, addresses the remaining question of why, if HaShem considers the death of a righteous person to be as calamitous as the burning of the Temple, we only have a fast day to commemorate Gedalya's death and not the death of other righteous people.

The Maharsha answers that the day that Gedalya was killed is exceptional since he was murdered by Yishma'el, a fellow Jew, during the Ten Days of Repentance (when Jews should especially repent and certainly not commit grievous sins as did Yishma'el). More significantly, as a result of Gedalya's death, the Jewish people remaining in Judea fled from the Land of Israel to Egypt, transgressing Yirmiyahu's warning that they would be annihilated if they did so (Yimiyahu 42:7-22).

To quote R' Eliyahu Kitov: "With Gedalyah's death, the last ember of Jewish autonomy in the aftermath of the destruction of the first Beis ha-Mikdash was extinguished. Thousands were killed, and those who remained alive were driven into exile.... Thus, the remnant that had been left in the land was dispersed and the land was left desolate" (The Book of Our Heritage, vol. 1, pp. 47-48).

Nonetheless, although we fast over the tragedy caused by the death of Gedalya, the fast is named after him to illustrate the point made by the Talmud in the passage to which you refer (Rosh HaShana 18b), that HaShem considers the death of the righteous to be as serious as the burning of the Temple. As the Maharsha notes, it is impractical to fast over the death of every righteous person, since that would require a daily fast. However, since we fast anyway, the fast is named such as to show us that it is theoretically fitting to fast over the death of the righteous just as we actually fast over the destruction of the Temple.

I'll leave it to another poster to address the question of Gedalya's personal righteousness.


1: About midway down the first block of text, towards the end of the line.

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"during the Ten Days of Repentance" Moreover it was on Rosh Hashana! –  Double AA Sep 11 '13 at 6:00
    
@DoubleAA The gemara (ibid.) mentions it as having occurred on the 3rd of Tishrei. –  Fred Sep 11 '13 at 6:03
    
I would rather read that gemara as lav davka and not lose pshat in the psukim (see radak and particularly ibn ezra) –  Double AA Sep 11 '13 at 6:24

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