Only one fast-day was commanded to the Jews in the Law of Moses, which is the tenth day of the autumn month, the Feast of Atonement, as we mentioned previously. Besides that, we find that the holy fathers and prophets ordered fast-days if the time and need demanded, as we see here and there in the writings of the prophets. So you read that at the time of the prophet Zechariah four general fastdays had been ordered, as we can see from these words Zech. 8.19: The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth moons shall become joyful yearly feasts for the House of Judah, provided that you love truth and peace.
The fast of the tenth month has been, and still is, observed on the tenth day thereof, namely December, because on that day Nebuchadnezar began besieging Jerusalem, and brought great grief and misery to the city.
The fast of the fourth month is held on the seventeenth day thereof on account of various sorrows which came upon them long ago, and from which they still suffer, namely, the two stone tablets of the Law were broken, the daily sacrifice ceased, the holy book of the Law was burned, and an idolatrous image was erected in the holy temple. The city of Jerusalem was split in the second siege, and the walls were separated from one another. Therefore they still keep a strict fast even today, and they lead a very penitent life in outward appearance but not from their heart. From this day until the ninth of the following moon they consider very unlucky days. The teachers must not beat their pupils, [lest they die] no one appears in court, and if a Jew has a case pending before court, he will look for an excuse not to appear, fearing that he may lose everything.
The third fast is on the ninth day of the fifth month, July, because on that day the Temple was burned down. They go barefoot, sit on the ground, read only sad stories and the Lamentations of Jeremiah. They go to the cemetary, lament there, and mourn over the souls that passed away because of the destruction of the temple. Moreover, they are sad the whole month, and from the first until the tenth they eat no meat, drink no wine, allow themselves no bath, do not get a haircut, take no marriage-vows, and are unwilling to appear in court. They declare and bewail the fact that they never had any luck in that month, and prove it by the saying of the prophet Jeremiah 2.24: In her month you will find her. On the eighth day they eat only linseed as a sign of mourning: peas, beans and such, they do not eat, because they have a little black line like a mouth on top, but linseed, just like eggs, have no such line and therefore no mouth, and they resemble a sad man with no mouth who does not speak. Who can fail to wonder about such a subtle comparison with regard to linseed by the Rabbis? In the evening they eat very little and while sitting on the ground, maybe only a roasted egg, also a sign of sadness, because it is round and shaped like a ball. Just like misery and grief, it runs around, today to you, tomorrow to somebody else. They do not sleep on a good bed as before. If someone had used two pillows before, he has now only one. If he had one, now he needs nothing. Instead of clean linen they take soiled, and everything should look different and more difficult.
The fourth fast is on the third day of the seventh month, the autumn month, because on that day the excellent hero and provincial governor Gedaliah, who was appointed over those Jews who stayed and were not led away to Babel, was murdered in a deplorable and deceitful manner, as you can read in prophet Jeremiah, chapters 40 and 41.
These are the four general fast days, which the Jews held at the time of the prophet Zechariah, and which they still observe today.
Besides these, there are other fast-days which are not generally observed, but rather by individuals who wish to be especially pious and holy.
Some of them fast every Monday and Thursday throughout the whole year, like the Pharisee in the New Testament, Luke 18.12 who praised himself in a superior manner that he fasted twice a week.
On the tenth day of March some fast on account of the prophetess Miriam, who died on that day, and with that the well [called Miriam's well, which accompanied them in the desert] ceased to give water, so that the people were without water in the desert, and they started to grumble and sin against the Lord. Most of the Rabbis decided, however, that there should be no fasting in March because of the joyful deliverance of Egypt.
On the tenth day of April some fast because on that day Eli and his two sons died. Also the Ark of the Covenant was captured on that day.
On the twenty-eighth day of that month some fast because the prophet Samuel died on that day, and they have many similar fastdays to remember the passing away of their prophets and holy men.
Some fast every eve of New Moon, some whenever they have a bad dream in the night. Additionally, one whose father has died, should fast on that day every year of his life; and more such things.
When they fast, they abstain from all food and drink until the stars appear at night, which would be good fasting if devotion of the heart and true fear of God went with it, and it was directed towards an appropriate aim according to the word of God. But no prophet could ever preach so much about this, that the Jews might understand it.
To end this chapter, I do not want to omit reporting how the highly learned Rabbis want to conduct a devout fast. You can read about it in Medrasch rabba, Midrash Deuteronomy Rabba, 11.10 in the chapter which starts Vezos habberáchah. I shall explain it in German. As soon as Moses saw that God had decreed judgment over him [to die] he started a fast himself, and made a ring or circle (as the magicians and sorcerers used to do), put on sackcloth, strewed ashes on his head, and stood in the middle of the circle fasting and praying incessantly. He made up his mind not to move until God changed the decree, and lifted the punishment which was imposed. Without any doubt this comment is based like all Jewish fables on the Talmud, because you can read in the tractate about fasting Ta'anit, 23a that a very holy and pious Jew, named Chone hammaagal, [Onias the circle-drawer] did this also, if he wanted to beg God for some high and necessary thing, as when it was not raining the whole month of February, and the rain was needed very much to ensure the following harvest, he fasted and and placed himself in such a ring or circle, as though in a prison and said: Lord of the world, your children lift up their eyes to you, while I am loved and liked by you just as a child is dear to his father. I swear by your holy name that I will not move from this place until you show mercy to your children. Soon after that it rained. It is also reported that the prophet Habbakuk did a similar thing, as it is written 2.1: here I stand on guard and stand still and look to see what answer I will get, that is I stand here in my circle and wait until you answer me why the godless live so long. This is what R. David Kimchi says, about that statement, basing himself on the rabbis. The stubborn Jews find themselves in such a pitiable, confused state of mind, that they are not ashamed, and do not have a bad conscience about speaking so injudiciously about God's word, and they interpret Scripture according to their own liking.
There was great misuunderstanding and superstition about fasting at the time of the prophets too, therefore the prophet Zecharia criticized their fasting, and explained the proper fast when the Jews asked: Do we have to mourn on the fifth and seventh moon too, and abstain from food, as we did through all the years until now? Then the word of the Lord Zebaoth came to me and said: Tell the people of the land and also the priests and say: While you were fasting and mourning in the fifth and seventh months, those seventy years, did you fast for me? When you were eating and drinking, did you not eat for yourself? Is it not what the Lord preached through the previous prophets? Judge aright, and let each show his brother kindness and mercy. But they did not pay attention, and turned their back on me, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear, and hardened their hearts like a diamond that they could not hear the law and word which the Lord Zabaoth sent by his spirit through the previous prophets.
This is enough talk about the ceremonies of their holy days, and feast days, and the customs of their Jewish faith, from which we can conclude that their religion is not based on Moses and the prophets but rather on lies and the false orders of the Rabbis and men of scripture as I have mentioned before, and it was my intention to prove that in this book. Now follow some other Jewish customs which they observe in their private life.