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Sunday, July 08, 2012

Shiva Assar b'Tamuz 5548 (1788)

As many of my readers know already, today is (or was in Israel) the fast of the 17th of Tamuz, Shiva Asar b'Tamuz. The reasons that posting has been spotty today are (a) the fast (I don't fast well), (b) my son put on Tefillin this morning for the first time, which meant I did not go back to sleep after I got up for my caffeine hit before the fast, and (c) my grandson's Brith - which was put off from last Sabbath - is taking place this evening outside of Jerusalem. So all the posts had to be done early.

But here's one of the best 'recent' stories I have heard about Shiva Asar b'Tamuz: The State of New York put off a parade to celebrate its ratifying the US constitutional convention (the last state to do so) because of Shiva Asar b'Tamuz.
Planning for the New York Procession had been ongoing throughout June and was originally scheduled to coincide, like Philadelphia’s, with the Fourth of July celebration. But the event kept getting put off, principally, as the chairman of the event later wrote, in the “hope that this state…would likewise accede to the Union.” A postponement was also necessitated because the elaborate parade preparations took longer to complete than had been anticipated. In particular, the construction of a scaled-down frigate, the “Federal Ship Hamilton,” which was to form part of the procession and honor New York’s Federalist leader, would not be ready until July 18.

The procession was finally scheduled for July 22. But, as Maier discovered from two letters contained in the Documentary History, it was put off for an additional day because it turned out that July 22 in 1788 coincided with a Jewish holiday: 17 Tammuz, the day on which the Fast of Tammuz is held.

This minor fast day (lasting only from dawn to dusk rather than a full 25 hours, as in the Yom Kippur fast) commemorates the beginning of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple by the Romans. Seventeen Tammuz in the Jewish calendar was the day in 70 C.E. when Titus’s legions breached the walls of Jerusalem. The rabbis also determined that a number of other disasters in Jewish history occurred on that date, including Moses’s destruction of the first set of tablets on Mount Sinai, following the sin of the Golden Calf. In addition, 17 Tammuz commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in the sixth century B.C.E., although that event is said to have occurred on 9 Tammuz.

For Ashkenazi Jews, 17 Tammuz marks the beginning of the period known as the Three Weeks, which culminates in the full fast day of Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av), commemorating the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians. During this 21-day period, Ashkenazim observe various restrictions, including not taking part in joyous activities. For Sephardim, 17 Tammuz is a fast day, but the restrictions leading up to Tisha B’Av do not take effect until the first day of Av 12 days later. As we will see, this difference in religious practice is of significance to the New York story.

Volume XXI of the Documentary History includes an announcement that appeared in the New York Daily Advertiser on July 17, reporting that “The PROCESSION is postponed till WEDNESDAY, the 23d instant.” The announcement gives no reason for the postponement from the previously announced Tuesday, the 22nd. The explanation comes in a letter dated July 16 to Nicholas Low, a wealthy New York City merchant, from one of his agents, Peter Collin. Collin reported: “It is said that the procession is postponed till the 23rd Inst. in order to give the Jews an opportunity to Join in the Festivals, the 22nd being one of their holidays.” The same reason is referred to in another letter from one Adrian Bancker, a Staten Island grandee, on the 20th of July. Bancker wrote to his brother: “I Observe the Grand procession is put of[f] to the 23d I think it is a great Compliment paid the Jews.”1
Read the whole thing.

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At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

July 4th, 1776 was Shiva Assar B'Tammuz. Go ahead and look it up.

At 11:58 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Shy Guy, here's a book I have in my reading stack:

Jews and the American Revolution

At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sunlight, first I have to finish reading about Germany's Jews.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

z"l Germany's Jews. Germany isn't the future because their anti-semitism is a brain plaque... I saw it first hand. America's anti-semitism is softened by the U.S. Constitution, which allows people from every country on the planet, every religion, every culture, to live on a single street in peace (if the people join in, rather than wanting America to adopt their old countries' ways - the countries they escaped (?)). But it breaks down when Leftist marcuse marxism or other tyrannical philosophies corrupt it, as is happening right now. The Torah is not marxist, despite what Prof. Dershowitz endlessly peddles. And I don't think Salomon, etc. were confiscatory communalists back in the day. The future needs us to cross-study the Torah with the U.S. Constitution.


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