These days are observed only by traditional Orthodox Jews. Some non-Orthodox Jews tend to recognize them as important in Jewish tradition but do not encourage traditional observance.

Sheva Asar be-Tammuz

Meaning of Name: The 17th of Tammuz

English Name: The Fast of Tammuz

Calendar Month: June/July

Jewish Calendar Date: Originally the 9th of Tammuz to commemorate the fall of the walls of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians just prior to the destruction of the First Temple. Transferred later to the 17th, the day on which the daily sacrifice was suspended. (The 17th is also said to be the day on which the walls of Jerusalem fell prior to the destruction of the Second Temple at the hands of the Romans. Since that destruction was felt to be of greater significance, the date was moved to the 17th).

Duration: One day

Purpose: To commemorate the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (First Temple) and Romans (Second Temple).

Origin: Based on an earlier fast mentioned in Zechariah 8:19: Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah…'” The 17th of Tammuz appears to correspond to the fast of the fourth month, suspended according to the word of Zechariah. However, after the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70, the fasts once again were observed. The 17th of Tammuz along with most similar fasts became mandatory after A.D. 135 (when Bar Kochba’s revolt was defeated by the Romans).

How Observed: Partial fasting (daylight hours only)

Special Synagogue Readings: Torah (portion from the Five Books of Moses) is Exodus 32:11-14, 34:1-10.

Haftarah (portion from the Prophets) is Isaiah 55:6-56:8.

Traditional Folklore and Customs: By tradition, other tragedies also occurred on this date: Moses broke the tablets of the Law, the daily sacrifice was suspended, and the Torah was burned in the Temple by Apostomos (an unknown individual referred to in the Talmud who may have lived any time between 168 B.C. and A.D. 135 and who set up an idol in the Temple).Torah (portion from the Five Books of Moses) is Exodus 32:11-14, 34:1-10.

Hebrew: Bein ha-Metsarim / Yiddish: Drei Vochen

Meaning of Name Hebrew: “between the straits” or “in stress,” taken from Lamentations 1:3
Yiddish: “three weeks”

English Name The Three Weeks (The second part of this period, from the 1st of Av onward, is known as the Nine Days.)

Calendar Month June/July or July/August

Jewish Calendar Date 17th of Tammuz to 9th of Av inclusive. From the 1st to the 9th of Av (the Nine Days), the mourning becomes more intense.

Duration Three weeks

Purpose To commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem (586 B.C. and A.D. 70, respectively).

Origin Since this period falls between the existing fast days, it naturally took on a character of semi-mourning. Throughout the centuries, various practices developed.

How Observed Among observant Jews, mourning practices may include not buying or wearing new garments; abstention from shaving, bathing, and haircuts; not celebrating weddings; abstention from meat and wine. These practices are more usually observed during the Nine Days, from the 1st of Av onward.

Special Synagogue Readings Jeremiah 1:1-2:3, 2:4-3:4
Isaiah 1:1-27

Traditional Folklore and Customs This period is a time when evil spirits are said to be active. It is considered a bad time to enter a lawsuit before a non-Jewish court; also “Teachers should not beat their students during this time” (Shulchan Arukh 122:2 *).

*Edition of Solomon Ganzfried (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1961).

Tisha B’Av

Meaning of Name The 9th of Av

English Name The 9th of Av

Calendar Month July/August

Jewish Calendar Date 9th of Av

Duration One day

Purpose To commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem (586 B.C. and A.D. 70, respectively).

The 9th of Av has overshadowed all other fast days in Judaism and in Jewish tradition has become synonymous with mourning and tragedy.

Origin See under “17th of Tammuz.” The 9th of Av corresponded to the fast of the fifth month and became mandatory by the end of the first century A.D., earlier than the other fasts.

How Observed Fasting. On the eve of Tisha B’Av, just before the fast, it was traditional to eat bagels along with eggs sprinkled with ashes. Other mourning customs included sitting in low chairs and visiting cemeteries.

Special Synagogue Readings Evening service:
The Book of Lamentations, one of the “five scrolls,” is read on the eve of Tisha B’Av.

Morning service:
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 4:24-40
Haftarah portion: Jeremiah 8:13-9:23

Afternoon service:
Torah portion: Exodus 32:11-14, 34:1-10
Haftarah portion in Ashkenazic (East European) ritual: Isaiah 55:6-56:8
Haftarah portion in Sephardic (Mediterranean) ritual: Hosea 14:2-9

Traditonal Folklore and Customs Several tragedies, including the destruction of both Temples, were said to have occurred on the 9th of Av. (Historically, the destructions of the Temples more likely took place close to, but not on, the ninth.)

According to tradition, on the 9th of Av, the Jewish people were expelled from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492. In recent history, Nazi atrocities were deliberately orchestrated to take place on the 9th of Av.

Perhaps as a counterpoint to the gloom of this day, a tradition arose that the Messiah would be born on the 9th of Av (Deuteronomy Rabbah 13).

Spiritual Application

These can be occasions to identify with Jewish friends and acquaintances in their sadness. Scripture says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Non-Jews or those who have not personally participated in tragic events can still identify with Jewish people who mourn on these special occasions.

A word of caution: Christians with Orthodox Jewish friends who observe Tisha B’Av and the other occasions described here might be eager to explain that we no longer need a Temple because Messiah Yeshua is the final sacrifice. Though this is a valid point, it is better to reserve that explanation for another time and just commiserate with friends in their mourning according to Romans 12:15.

In any case, a better approach might be to ask about the tradition that the Messiah would be born on Tisha B’Av and to suggest that God is willing to meet us in our sorrow at any time through Yeshua.

If you have a Jewish friend who does not traditionally observe Tisha B’Av but recognizes its importance, you might lead into a conversation about the evil things people do in this world. Then explain that evil is caused by our sin nature from which we need the redemption that God offers in Yeshua.

These can be occasions to mourn and pray for those who are far from God. New Testament scripture records the words of Jesus and Paul, who mourned because many of their own people were spiritually far from God:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

Matthew 23:37; also Luke 13:34

“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying…that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen”

Romans 9:1-5

By concern and prayer, we can respond as they did by praying for nonbelievers and seeking their salvation.


Rich Robinson | San Francisco

Scholar in Residence, Missionary

Rich has been on staff since 1978. He has served at several Jews for Jesus branches and was a pianist and songwriter with their music team, the Liberated Wailing Wall. He is now at the San Francisco headquarters, where he conducts research, writes and edits as the senior researcher. He is author of the books Christ in the Sabbath and The Day Jesus Did Tikkun Olam: Jewish Values and the New Testament, and co-author of Christ in the Feast of Pentecost. Rich received his M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1978 and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies and Hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.

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