The Second Jewish Commonwealth
The Fast of Gedaliah
On Monday, September 25, 2006, we commemorated the murder of Gedaliah Ben Achikam. The commemoration is called “Tzom Gedaliah” in Hebrew and refers to the governor of Jerusalem and Yudah after the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the Temple in 586 B.C.E. This disaster was predicted by the prophet Jeremiah 25:9-11. Some Jews fast on that day, as it was that murder which brought on the end of the kingdom of Yudah and so many disasters thereafter.
Nebuchadnezzar had seized the king of Yudah, Jehoiakhin, and appointed Zedekiah in his stead. Zedekiah ruled Yudah for eleven years and then, in 588, rebelled against Babylon with the encouragement of the Egyptians. The outcome was another disaster. In II Kings 24:20 and 25:1-7 we read that Nebuchadnezzar returned, Jerusalem was once more destroyed and the king was sent into captivity in Babylon. It was then that Gedaliah was appointed governor of what remained of the Jewish community in Yudah.
Gedaliah was murdered by another Jew, Yishmael ben Netaniah, who was in the pay of the king of Ammon. The Jews loyal to Gedaliah were also murdered, others fled to Egypt, and it appeared then that the end of the Jewish people had arrived (585 B.C.E.).
The land of Israel was utterly deserted at that time, so that no reasonable person would have expected any further Jewish history. Instead, just the opposite occurred.
Cyrus, known in Hebrew as Koresh, king of the Medes and the Persians, conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.E. and promptly announced that he favored the return of the Jews in Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem for the purpose of building a second Temple.
Look into your Bible and you will find that the very last verse of the last chapter of Chronicles 36 is this: “So said Cyrus (Koresh), the king of Persia. ‘All the kingdoms of the earth has the Lord, the God of Heaven given me; and he has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him and let him go up.”
The second Temple was finally finished in 515 B.C.E. and remained the center to Jewish life until the Romans destroyed it in 70 C.E. Only one wall of the second Temple remained and is still the most sacred place in Judaism today.
Because Israel returned in 1948 we call the present State of Israel the 3rd Jewish Commonwealth. Today, as in the ancient world, both Israel’s neighbors to the north and the south continually threaten the existence of the people of Israel. Babylon is now called Iraq and Persia is called Iran because those ancient peoples have disappeared from history. Only Israel remains, having lasted even longer than the Roman empire.
Therefore, we, the descendants of all those who never surrendered despite all disasters that befell them, have an obligation to defend our brethren in Israel. The best way to do so is to vote for those who share our view and want to preserve modern Israel and support it. Those who seek to do so are the Republican party and our current president. Unfortunately, the Democrats support the enemies of Israel. Therefore our choice is clear. If you believe that Israel should survive, demonstrate your conviction in the voting booth in November.
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The Restoration of Israel (2006).