tenth day of the month of Tevet is observed as a fast
day. It is known as Asara B'Tevet (the Tenth of Tevet).
The Fast of Asara B'Tevet 5774, falls on Friday,
Dec. 13, 2013.
marks the beginning of the siege of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem),
in 588 BCE, during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Bavel
(Babylon), that resulted in the destruction of the First Bait Hamikdash
(Temple), and ultimately the Babylonian exile.
"And in the ninth year
of his reign, [Tzidkiyahu (Zedekiah)], on the tenth day of the
tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, moved against Yerushalayim
with his whole army. He besieged it, and they built towers all around
it....The city continued in a state of siege until the 11th year of
King Tzidkiyahu... On the ninth day (of Tamuz) the famine was
intense in the city, the people had no bread,... [and]... then
[the wall of] the city was breached..." - (Melachim
(Kings) II, 25:1-4).
"And in the ninth year,
in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of Hashem
came to me, saying... 'Son of man, record this date...this exact day
- the king of Bavel has laid siege on Yerushalayim on this very day'...."
(Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 24:1-2)
Asara B'Tevet is
first mentioned as a fast day in the Book of Zecharia (Zachariah).
"The fast of the tenth
month..." (Zecharia 8:19)
As the tenth month counting
from Nissan (the first Hebrew month) is Tevet, the fast
of the "tenth month" is the Fast of Asara B'Tevet.
Back in 588 BCE, Jews
were already living in Bavel. Among these exiled Judeans were
many false prophets who taught that the Bait Hamikdash in Yerushalayim
would never be destroyed and the rest of Judea would not ever be exiled
from the land of Eretz Yisroel. Meanwhile, the true prophets
of Hashem urged the Jewish people to repent and return to the
ways of Hashem.
part of the first group of Judeans sent into exile by the Babylonians.
He was the first Jewish prophet in Bavel. Like the prophet Yirmiyahu
(Jeremiah), who lived in Yerushalayim, Yechezkel felt that the
destruction of Yerushalayim and King Solomon's Bait Hamikdash
was just punishment for the sins of the Judeans.
Both Prophets warned the
Jews of the impending destruction. But the Jewish people clung to the
hope of the false prophets. On the tenth day of Tevet, the wicked
Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Bavel, closed in on Yerushalayim
and laid siege outside of the walls of the holy city.
would witness the slow, merciless strangling of Yerushalayim's
inhabitants, the false prophets would no doubt continue to paint a rosy
picture. And the Jews of Bavel would sit by without a prayer
for their brethren in Yerushalayim. For once and for all, Hashem
wanted to discredit the false Jewish prophets of Bavel. It
would take weeks for the news of the siege to reach the Jewish community
So on the Tenth of Tevet,
as Nebuchadnezzar's armies surrounded the Holy City, Hashem appeared
to the prophet Yechezkel and commanded him to write down the
details of the siege as it occurred: "Son of man, record this date...this
exact day - the king of Bavel has laid siege on Yerushalayim on this
very day...." Now there would be a miraculous "real-time" account
of this terrible event.
Asara B'Tevet marks
the first event in a chain, which resulted in the eventual destruction
of Yerushalayim and the First Bait Hamikdash, and the
exile of the Jewish people.
Today, Asara B'Tevet
has an added meaning. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, in 1948, named
Asara B'Tevet as Yom ha-Kaddish ha-Klali, the general
Memorial Day for those Jews who died during the Holocaust whose day
of death (Yahrzeit)
is unknown, and for those Holocaust victims for whom there were no living
survivors to recite the Kaddish.
On this date, Kaddish is recited for these souls.
(There is also a Holocaust
Memorial Day (for all the Holocaust victims) that is the 27th of Nisan
- The prophet Yirmiyahu
bought a field and prophesied:
"Houses and fields and vineyards shall yet again be bought in this
land." (587 BCE).
- The death of the prophets
Zecharia, the son of Berechiah, and Malachi, the last
of the prophets of Israel.
- The capture of Yerushalayim
in 37 BCE by king Herod, which ushered in his long reign.
- The Decree for the
Elimination of Jews from German Economic Life took effect in 1939.
- The Nazi District Commander
of Warsaw decreed that no Jew was to greet a German in public, in 1939.
Asara B'Tevet is
the only Fast day that can fall on a Friday. When that happens, the
Fast is not moved to Thursday or Sunday, since it is mentioned in the
Book of Yechezkel as "..this exact day...this
very day ."
All the general regulations
and customs associated with public fast days are observed, including
the recitation of special selichot on the particular theme of
- The fast of Asara
B'Tevet only starts from the break of dawn and ends at nightfall.
(Consult a reliable Jewish calendar for the times in your area.) One
may eat breakfast if one arises before dawn for the specific purpose
of doing so.
- One who is ill need
not fast at all. Pregnant and nursing mothers can observe the fast with
lenience. One should consult with a Rabbi whether they are permitted
- Children below the
age of bar or bat mitzva - 13 for boys and 12 for girls,
do not fast. (In some communities, it is customary for children to begin
fasting a short time before they become bar/bat mitzva.)
- Those permitted to eat
should still refrain from eating meat, luxurious food and drink.
- Special additions to
the prayers, (Selichot and Aneinu), and Torah readings
(the Passages of Vayechal - Shmot 32: 11-14 and 34: 1-10), are
added during the day.
Our sages teach us that
"Whoever mourns over Yerushalayim is deserving to witness her
joy." (Talmud Taanit 30b). As it is written in Isaiah (Chapter
66, verse 10), "rejoice greatly with her, all who mourn her." The Fast
of Asara B'Tevet is one way that we mourn Yerushalayim.
May we merit seeing this
fast day turned into a day of joy, as prophesied by Zecharia.
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