The Jewish holiday 17th of Tammuz is a minor fast commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Second Temple. The Jewish holiday marks the three-week mourning period leading up to the Jewish holiday Tisha B’Av. In addition to the breach of the walls of Jerusalem, the Jewish holiday commemorates the many historic calamities that have befallen the Jewish people on 17th of Tammuz.
A Historic Day of Calamity
In Biblical times on 17th of Tammuz, Moses descended Mount Sinai and broke the first set of tables carrying the Ten Commandments in response to the sin of the Golden Calf.
In the First Temple Era on 17th of Tammuz, the priests in the First Temple stopped offering the daily sacrifice on this day due to a sheep shortage during the siege. The next year the walls of Jerusalem were breached after a siege by Babylonian forces.
In Melachim II 21:7 King Menashe had an idol placed in the Holy Sanctuary of the Temple on 17th of Tammuz. Also, during the Roman persecution, Apostomos committed the same sacrilege and then publicly burned a Torah. These acts were followed by further calamities with Titus and Rome breaching the walls of Jerusalem in 70 CE and Pope Gregory IX ordering a confiscation of all manuscripts of the Talmud in 1239.
Later in history on the 17th Tammuz, in 1391 more than 4,000 Jews were killed in Spain and in 1559 the Jewish Quarter of Prague was burned and looted. More recently, in 1944, the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania was liquidated and in 1970, the Libyan government ordered the confiscation of Jewish property.
The Fast of the Fourth Month
No eating or drinking is allowed from the break of dawn until dusk. Pregnant and nursing women and others whose health would be adversely affected are exempted from the Jewish holiday fast. If the 17th of Tammuz should fall on the Jewish holiday Shabbat, the fast is delayed until Sunday. Being that the Jewish holiday is a minor fast, bathing, anointing and wearing leather shoes is permitted.