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Megillat Taanit (Scroll of Fasts)


The Megillat Taanit is a very early (first centuy A.D.) list of memorable days in Jewish history, which were kept as special days in the calendar, when fasting was not permitted. Most of the entries in it refer to events which happened between the second century B.C. and the first century A.D. They are arranged in twelve sections, according to the Jewish month in which they occurred. The list was written in Aramaic, and it was later greatly amplified by a Hebrew commentary or scholium, written in about the 7th century A.D.

This translation is derived from Solomon Zeitlin, who provided a full commentary on the historical context of each event in his study "Megillat Ta'anit as a Source for Jewish Chronology and History in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods" (1922). He showed that the context was often misunderstood by the scholiast; a summary of his comments has been added to the translation here, in green.

The numbers in red are the numbers of the Jewish months. Click on the # symbols to go to lists of other ancient sources which refer to the same events.



These are the days on which one is not allowed to fast, and on some of them it is not permitted to mourn.

[1] From [on] the 1st [until the 8th] of Nisan was established the Daily offering,- mourning is forbidden.   {The scholiast says that this commemorates the victory of the Pharisees over the Sadducees in a dispute about the daily offering; but Zeitlin thinks that it is connected with the dedication of the Second Temple, Ezra, 6'15}

2 From the 8th thereof until the close of the festival (of Passover) a holiday (of a week) was declared during which it is forbidden to mourn.   {The scholiast says that this commemorates the victory of the Pharisees over the Sadducees in a dispute about the date of Pentecost; but Zeitlin thinks that it is merely an extension of the previous holiday}

[2] On the 7th of Iyyar was the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, and it is forbidden to mourn thereon.   {The scholiast says that this commemorates the dedication of the wall in the time of Nehemiah, Nehemiah, 12'27}

2 On the 14th thereof (was slaughtered) the Minor Passover, on which it is forbidden to mourn. {The scholiast says that this is the same Passover as in Numbers, 9'2; but Zeitlin thinks that it dates to the Maccabean period, when the Jewish high priests were unable to celebrate the Passover at the normal time, because they were fighting against the Syrians}

3 On the 23rd thereof the garrison departed from Jerusalem.   #

4 On the 27th thereof was discontinued payment of the tribute (from Judah and Jerusalem).   #

[3] On the 14th of Sivan the tower of the Fort was captured. {The scholiast says that this commemorates the capture of Caesareia by the Hasmoneans; but Zeitlin thinks that it refers to the capture of towers adjoining the fortress of Antonia by the Jews in 66 A.D. - see Josephus, BJ_2'330}

2 On the 15th and 16th thereof the people of Bethshean {Scythopolis} and the valley were exiled.   #

3 On the 25th thereof the publicans were removed from Judah and Jerusalem. {Zeitlin suggests that this refers to the refusal of the Jews to pay taxes after the retreat of Florus in 66 A.D. - see Josephus, BJ_2'402-404}

[4] On the 4th (10th) of Tammuz the book of decrees was removed (on which it is not allowed to mourn).   #

[5] On the 15th of Ab, the day of Xylophoria, it is forbidden to mourn.

2 On the 24th thereof we returned to our Law.

[6] On the 7th of Elul was the day of the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, on which it is forbidden to mourn.   #

2 On the 17th thereof the Romans evacuated Judah and Jerusalem. {Zeitlin suggests that this refers to the surrender of the forces which were defending the royal palace in 66 A.D. - see Josephus, BJ_2'437}

3 On the 22nd thereof we began to slay the wicked.

[7] On the 3rd of Tishri were removed the 'mentions' on documents.

[8] On the 23rd of Heshvan the Sorega was torn away from the 'Azarah.   #

2 On the 25th thereof the wall of Samaria was captured.   #

3 On the 27th thereof they began again to bring the offerings of fine flour upon the altar.   #   {The scholiast says that this commemorates the victory of the Pharisees over the Sadducees in a dispute about meal-offerings; but Zeitlin thinks that it refers to the cleansing of the temple}

[9] On the 3rd of Kislev the ensigns were removed from the Court. {In about 26 A.D., by Pontius Pilatus - see Josephus, AJ_18'59}

2 On the 7th thereof (a holiday). {The scholiast says that this commemorates the death of Herodes I, in 4 B.C; but Zeitlin thinks that it refers to the defeat of Cestius by the Jews in 66 A.D. - see Josephus, BJ_2'551-555}

3 On the 21st thereof was the day of Mt. Gerizim (on which it is not allowed to mourn).   #

4 On the 25th thereof is the day of Hanukkah: eight days it is forbidden to mourn.   #

[10] On the 28th of Tebeth the Sanhedrin sat in judgement. {Zeitlin suggests that this refers to the appointment of Jewish leaders following the defeat of Cestius in 66 A.D. - see Josephus, BJ_2'562-563}

[11] On the 7th of Shebat is a holiday, whereon it is not allowed to mourn.

2 On the 22nd thereof the work on what the enemy commanded to bring into the Temple was stopped; not allowed to mourn {Plans to erect a statue of Caligula were abandoned when the emperor died in 41 A.D. - see Josephus, BJ_2'199-203}.

3 On the 28th thereof Antiochus (the king) departed from Jerusalem.   #

[12] The 8th and 9th of Adar they supplicated and sounded blasts for rain.

2 On the 12th thereof is the day of Tyrian. {The scholiast says that this commemorates the death of the emperor Trajanus, in 117 A.D., shortly after he had killed two Jews, Julianus and Pappus, at Laodicea; but Zeitlin thinks that it is derived from the Greek word τίρων (recruit), and refers to the preparations for war against the Romans in 66 A.D. - see Josephus, BJ_2'649]

3 On the 13th thereof is the day of Nicanor.   #

4 On the 14th and 15th thereof (are the days of) Purim, on which it is not allowed to mourn. {The background to this holiday is described in Esther, 9'16-19; it is called "Mordecai's Day" in 2 Maccabees, 15'36}

5 On the 16th thereof was begun the building of the wall of Jerusalem; it is forbidden to mourn thereon. {Zeitlin suggests that this refers to the attempted reconstruction of the walls by Agrippa I, in 42 A.D. - see Josephus, BJ_2'218}

6 On the 17th thereof the Gentiles arose against the refugees of (?) Sepphoris in the province of Chalcis and in Beth Zabdain, but there came salvation (to the Jews). {The scholiast says that this commemorates the persecution of some Jewish sages who had been forced into exile by Alexander Jannaeus; but Zeitlin thinks that it and refers to attacks by Gentiles on the Jews in Galilee in 66 A.D.}

7 On the 20th thereof the people fasted for rain (and it descended).

8 On the 28th thereof the glad tidings reached the Jews that they were not to be restrained from the study of the Law. It is not permitted to mourn thereon.   #  {The scholiast says that this commemorates the relaxing of harsh restrictions imposed by the emperor Hadrianus, in 139/140 A.D.; but Zeitlin thinks that it refers to concessions granted by Antiochus V.}


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