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The 17th of Tammuz

On the 17th of Tammuz five major tragedies befell the Jewish people: 1) Moshe broke the tablets of the Ten Commandments; 2) the Daily Sacrifices (Korban Tamid) were suspended; 3) the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem - leading up to the destruction of the second Temple; 4) Apostomus (a Roman general) burned the Torah; and 5) an idol was erected in the Temple.

As a result, the 17th day of Tammuz was designated as a fast day, and for Ashkenazim, it is also the beginning of the three week period of national mourning for the destruction of the Temples. (Interestingly, there is a dispute whether or not the “three weeks” begins the night of the 17th of Tammuz [Tzitz Eliezer 10:27] or in the morning [Iggrot Moshe Orech Chaim vol. 1:168]. However, unless there is a pressing need to be lenient, the general consensus is to consider the night of the 17th as the beginning of the three weeks.)

Some Laws of this Fast Day:

The fast begins 72 minutes before sunrise (4:14 am) and continues until the end of the day (8:58 pm). Food and drink may be consumed any time during the night, as long as one has not gone to sleep "for the night".

Although it is permitted to bathe on a fast day, it has become customary not to take a hot shower or bath [Aruch haShulchan 550:3].

The rabbis differ as to whether it is permitted to rinse one's mouth with water on the fast days such as this [Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chayim 567:3]. Some permit rinsing the front part of the mouth and even brushing one's teeth, taking care that no water enters the throat [Aruch haShulchan 567:3], while others allow this only when in distress [Mishna Berurah 567:11].

Medications PRESCRIBED BY A DOCTOR may be taken on this fast day. If one has difficulty swallowing pills without water s/he may drink a small amount of water required to swallow the medicine [Nishmat Avraham, vol. 5, pg. 46 in the name of Rabbi S.Z. Auerbach].

There is a debate among authorities whether pregnant or nursing woman should fast on the 17th of Tammuz (and the other minor fast days). Some maintain that they should, unless they are in significant discomfort [Chayyei Adam 133:6] or feeling weak [Mishna Berurah 550 note 5]. While the Aruch HaShulchan (among others) exempted them from fasting on these days [Aruch HaShulchan 554:8, Halichot Beitah 25 note 3]. 

This year, because the 17th of Tammuz is on Shabbat, and the fast is being observed a day later on Sunday, one may be more lenient both in terms of pregnant and nursing women and for those who are ill [Shvut Yaakov 3:37 and Nitei Gavriel 6:9.

If by accident, a healthy person ate some food, the fast should be resumed and completed as normal [Mishna Berurah 549:3].

Sat, September 23 2023 8 Tishrei 5784