Seventeenth of Tammuz

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Seventeenth of Tammuz
Official name Hebrew: שבעה עשר בתמוז‎‎
Observed by Jews
Type Jewish religious and national
Significance Date when the walls of Jerusalem were breached
Observances Fasting, prayer
Date 17th day of Tammuz
2017 date July 11, dawn to nightfall
2018 date July 1, dawn to nightfall
2019 date July 21, dawn to nightfall
Related to The fasts of the Tenth of Tevet and Tisha B'Av, the Three Weeks & the Nine Days

The Seventeenth of Tammuz (Hebrew: שבעה עשר בתמוז‎‎ Shiv'ah Asar b'Tammuz) is a Jewish fast day commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Second Temple.[1][2] It falls on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz and marks the beginning of the three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B'Av.[3]

The day also traditionally commemorates the destruction of the two tablets of the Ten Commandments and other historical calamities that befell the Jewish people on the same date.[1]


"The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70" by David Roberts.

The fast of Tammuz, according to Rabbi Akiva's interpretation, is the fast mentioned in the Book of Zechariah as "the fast of the fourth [month]" (Zechariah 8:19). This refers to Tammuz, which is the fourth month of the Hebrew calendar.

According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6[1]), five calamities befell the Jewish people on this day:

  1. Moses broke the two tablets of stone on Mount Sinai;
  2. The daily tamid offering ceased to be brought;
  3. The walls of Jerusalem were breached (proceeding to the destruction of the Temple);
  4. Prior to Bar Kokhba's revolt, Roman military leader Apostomus burned a Torah scroll;
  5. An idol was erected in the Temple.

The Babylonian Talmud (Taanit 28b) places the second and fifth tragedies in the First Temple period, while dating the third tragedy (breach of Jerusalem's walls) to the Second Temple period.

The walls of Jerusalem during the First Temple, on the other hand, was breached on the 9th of Tammuz (cf. Jeremiah 39.2, 52.6–7). However, the Jerusalem Talmud (Taanit IV, 5) states that the breach of Jerusalem in the First Temple occurred on 17th Tammuz as well; the text in Jeremiah 39 is explained by stating that the Biblical record was "distorted", apparently due to the troubled times.[4]

The Seventeenth of Tammuz occurs forty days after the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Moses ascended Mount Sinai on Shavuot and remained there for forty days. The Children of Israel made the Golden Calf on the afternoon of the sixteenth of Tammuz when it seemed that Moses was not coming down when promised. Moses descended the next day (forty days by his count), saw that the Israelites were violating many of the laws he had received from God, and smashed the tablets.[5]


As a minor fast day, fasting lasts from dawn to shortly after dusk. Although it is customary among Ashkenazi Jews to refrain from listening to music, public entertainment, and haircuts on this day, this is only because it is part of The Three Weeks (see below, Bein haMetzarim); other deprivations applicable to the major fasts (i.e. Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av) do not apply.

A Torah reading, a special prayer in the Amidah (Aneinu), and (in many congregations) Avinu Malkenu are added at the morning Shacharit and afternoon Mincha services. Ashkenazi congregations also read a haftarah (from the Book of Isaiah) at Mincha. Congregations also recite during Shacharit a series of Selichot (special penitential prayers) reflecting the themes of the day.

Cycle of fasts[edit]

The 17th of Tammuz is the second of the four fasts commemorating the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish exile. It is preceded by the fast of the Tenth of Tevet and arrives three weeks prior to the full-day fast of the Ninth of Av. The last of the four fasts is the Fast of Gedalia, which is observed on the third day of Tishrei.

Bein haMetzarim[edit]

The three weeks beginning with the 17th of Tammuz and ending with the Ninth of Av are known as Bein haMetzarim ("between the straits", i.e. between the days of distress), or The Three Weeks. Some customs of mourning, which commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem, are observed from the start of the Three Weeks.[6]

The oldest extant reference to these days as Bein haMetzarim – which is also the first source for a special status of The Three Weeks – is found in Eikhah Rabbati 1.29 (Lamentations Rabbah, fourth century CE?). This midrash glosses Lamentations 1:3, "All [Zion's] pursuers overtook her between the straits."

The three weeks of mourning between the 17th of Tammuz and 9th of Av is cited[7] as a rabbinically instituted period of fasting for the "especially pious". Such fasting is observed from morning to evening, common with other rabbi-decreed fasts.

Coinciding with Fourth of July[edit]

The fast of the 17th of Tammuz coincides with American Independence Day every 10 to 20 years. The most notable of these occurrences was on July 4, 1776 itself.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Wikisource link to Mishnah Ta'anit 4:6. Wikisource. 
  2. ^ "Minor Fasts". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  3. ^ "The Three Weeks: Mourning the Destruction". 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  4. ^ The Roman Titus breached Jerusalem in the Second Temple period (Encyclopedia Judaica). Note that the Tosafot commenting on the Babylonian Talmud at Rosh Hashana 18b cite the Jerusalem Talmud as arguing with the Babylonian Talmud.
  5. ^ Rubin, Rabbi G. (2001). "The Giving of the Torah". Shavuot. Ohr Sameach. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  6. ^ 17th of Tammuz - Tisha B'Av & the Three Weeks
  7. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica, Second Edition, Volume 6. "Fasting and Fast Days". 2007. Keter Publishing House.
  8. ^ Rodman, Edmon J. (2 July 2015). "Should U.S. Jews feast or fast during the July 4 weekend?". Haaretz. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 

External links[edit]