17th of Tammuz: The Burning of the Torah Scroll by Apustamus & The Placing of an Idol in the Sanctuary

Sunday, July 24, 2016 · Posted in , , ,


The Burning of the Torah Scroll by Apustamus

The Gemara tells us that we know this event happened on the seventeenth of Tamuz as a tradition from our forefathers. The Gemara does not tell us who Apustamus was, or what the significance of the Torah scroll was.

The R"av writes that Apustamus was a Greek officer at the time of the second Temple. The Tiferet Yisroel offers two possible explanations as to the significance of the scroll. One is that this scroll was the one written by Ezra HaSofer, Ezra the Scribe. The text was the most authoritative, and all other Torah scrolls that were written were checked against this one for accuracy and errors. Another understanding is that he burnt every Torah scroll he could find.

No matter the explanation, the intent behind Apostamus’ actions remain the same: to eradicate Torah from the nation of Yisrael.


The Placing of an Idol in the Sanctuary 

The Gemara tells us that we know from the verse in Daniel 12:11 that this event occurred on the 17th of Tamuz, as the verse says that "on the day the Tamid offering ceased to be brought, an idolatrous image was placed in the Temple."  Although the Gemara here does not mention who placed the idol in the Temple, the Gemara in the Talmud Yerushalmi mentions that there is debate as to who did it. Some say that Apustamus placed the idol in the Temple as well as burning the Torah scroll. Others say it was placed by Menashe, an evil Jewish king, in the time of the first Temple. (Torah.org)

[Since the 17th of Tammuz fell on Shabbat, the fast was postponed until today, Sunday July 24th.]


17th of Tammuz: Breaking of the Luchot

17th of Tammuz: The Discontinuance of the Tamid

17th of Tammuz: The Breaching of the Wall Around Yerushalayim


17th of Tammuz: The Breaching of the Wall Around Yerushalayim


The Gemara then discusses the tragedy of the wall of Jerusalem being breached, the event which led to the overrunning of Jerusalem by our oppressors and the eventual destruction of the Temples.

The Gemara notes that there is an inconsistency between our Mishnah and the verse in Yermiyahu 52:6, which implies that the wall was breached on the ninth of Tammuz, not the seventeenth as the Mishnah says.

The Gemara resolves this inconsistency by explaining that the verse in Yirmiyahu is referring to the time of the first Temple, while our Mishnah is referring to the time of the second Temple. If that is the case, why do we fast only on the 17th of Tammuz, and not on the ninth as well?

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud) explains that in reality, the breach of the walls occurred on the 17th during both eras. However, in the time of the first Temple, because of the stress and upheaval of the time, the people became confused and miscalculated the days in the calendar. Therefore, they thought the breach occurred on the ninth. Yirmiyahu, when recording the event, wrote it down according to the erroneous calculation of the people, which was the prevalent belief as to the date of occurrence.

The Tur in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 549 writes that the breaches did occur on different dates. However, because having two fasts in such close proximity would be a burden on the community, only one fast day was established. The fast day was established on the day the wall was breached at the time of the second Temple because the tragedy was greater regarding its impact on us: the exile that began at that time is the exile we currently live in. (Torah.org)

[Since the 17th of Tammuz fell on Shabbat, the fast was postponed until today, Sunday July 24th.]



17th of Tammuz: The Discontinuance of the Tamid


The next tragedy the Gemara discusses is the discontinuation of the Tamid offering (daily burnt offering). The Gemara tells us that we know this happened on this day because we have a tradition from our forefathers that this is so. Rashi explains that the reason why the sacrifice was no longer brought was because the government at the time forbade it.

The Tiferet Yisrael, a commentator on the Mishnah, gives another possible explanation. We see from the Gemara in Baba Kama (82b) that there were two brothers who were members of the Hashmonean family (of Chanukah fame). These brothers, Aristablus and Hyrkanus, fought each other for the throne of Judea. Aristoblus laid siege to Yerushalayim, where Hyrkanus was headquartered.  As lambs were needed for the daily sacrifice and there were none in Jerusalem, the inhabitants worked out a deal with the lamb-sellers outside of the city. Everyday, the Jerusalemites would lower a basket full of gold coins over the wall. In return, the lamb-sellers would supply a lamb, which was then hoisted up. One day, an elderly man outside of the wall advised the sellers to supply a pig instead of a lamb. As the pig was unknowingly being hoisted up, the pig stuck its claws into the wall, and all of Yisrael quaked. From this day until the end of the siege, the daily offering was not brought.

The R"av, also a commentator on the Mishnah, gives another explanation. He explains that the Tamid was discontinued during the period of time when Jerusalem was under siege prior to the destruction of the Temple. The Tiferet Yisrael elaborates on this and says that the R"av is referring to the three year siege of Jerusalem by Nevuchadnezzar, at the time of the destruction of the first Temple. (Torah.org)

[Since the 17th of Tammuz fell on Shabbat, the fast was postponed until today, Sunday July 24th.]

17th of Tammuz: Breaking of the Luchot

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