b'JEWISH CALENDAR COMPANIONThe fast of Gedaliah specifically laments the death of a righteous man, and from this the sages teach that the fast reminds us that the death of the righteous is tantamount to the destruction of the House of God (Rosh Hashanah 18b). However, many righteous men have died tragically and many greater catastrophes have since befallen the Jewish people for which no fast days have been instituted. Why therefore do we dedicate a day to such an obscure biblical figure? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that this was the first time in the Jewish national experience that Jews had assassinated one of their own leaders. The sages felt that such an act must be condemned, and collective national repentance demanded, otherwise there was a risk that Jewish political factions might again use similar means to rid themselves of leaders whom they opposed. Today this message remains as relevant as ever. In the 1995 assassination of Yitzchak Rabin by a fellow Jew one can see clear historical parallels. The fast is therefore an important annual reminder that we must govern ourselves peaceably, using speech and persuasiontraditionally the most potent weapons in the Jewish armouryrather than resorting to bloodshed, which can very easily sow the seeds of anarchy and national dissolution.15'