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Asara B'Tevet
Rebuilding Jerusalem Print E-mail
Friday, 25 December 2020

As we commemorate the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet, we must step back and reflect on how we can rebuild Jerusalem.

What happened on the Tenth of Tevet?

We read in Melachim II (Kings II) 25:1-3:

And in the ninth year of his (Zedkiah’s) reign (587 BCE), on the tenth day of the tenth month (Tevet), Nevuchadnezzar moved against Jerusalem with his whole army. He besieged it; and they built towers against it all around. The city continued in a state of siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. By the ninth day of the fourth month, Tamuz, the famine had become acute in the city; there was no food left for the common people.

The siege of Jerusalem and the surrounding cities lasted for a year and seven months ultimately culminating in the destruction of the First Temple in the Fifth Month (Av), 586 BCE.

Sixty-eight years later, in the year 518 BCE, as the Jews were returning to build the Second Temple a question was asked (Zecharia 7:3):

Shall I weep and practice abstinence in the fifth month (on Tisha B’Av, The 9th of Av) as I have been doing all these years?

Zecharia received the following prophecy to relate back (Zecharia 7:5-6):

Say to all the people of the land and to the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and seventh months (Tisha B’Av and Tzom Gedalia) all these seventy years, did you fast for My benefit? And when you eat and drink, who but you does the eating, and who but you does the drinking?

Zecharia explained what to do (7:9):

Execute true justice; deal loyally and compassionately with one another.

According to Radak this means that when judging cases between two litigants, you must always execute true justice and at times, you must extend yourselves beyond the letter of the law with acts of benevolence and mercy.

Zecharia’s prophecy continues (7:10):

Do not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and do not plot evil against one another.

Zecharia is describing what was done wrong in the past and what needs to be fixed.  The importance of these fast days is not about refraining from eating and drinking but rather about basic behavior that was not followed the first time around leading to the destruction of the Temple and exile. Now is the opportunity to fix this behavior.

Many of the issues that Zecharia describes are still with us today. We have problems in our courts as well as poverty and unfair treatment of certain segments of the population.

Covid-19 has exacerbated many of these issues. Couples who are about to be divorced are not able to complete the process since the courts are being closed down due to lockdowns. This is causing a lot of needless anxiety.

Since the government has still not approved a budget and prefers to announce new elections, those who live under the poverty line have not been allocated the money that is due to them.

In addition, many Israelis have been out of work for months but not everyone works in a category that is eligible for unemployment.  

These issues must be rectified. Those with the power should not be taking advantage of those who are at their mercy.

Let’s see what we can do about correcting these mistakes. Only then can we stop fasting, start feasting and truly rebuild Jerusalem.

Asara B’Tevet- a little too close to home Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 January 2017

Dedicated in memory of Yael Yekutiel z”l, Shir Hajaj z”l, Shira Tzur z”l, Erez Orbach z”l, the soldiers who were murdered in the Terror Attack on Asara B’Tevet in Jerusalem

On Asara B’Tevet (the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet which we commemorated this past Sunday) we fast and mourn the fact that Nevuchadnetzar, King of Babylonia began his siege of Jerusalem which in the end led to the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash (Temple).

According to Jewish law, we are obligated to fast on Asara B’Tevet. We also recite Selichot, prayers of repentance which set the tone of the day.

This past Asara B’Tevet, in Jerusalem, we did not need to put ourselves into a state of mourning as we were forced into it against our will.

While driving home from the Baka neighborhood to our neighborhood of Talpiot-Arnona (usually a five minute drive) at 1:50 pm, I heard an announcement on the radio that there was a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. As we approached the traffic light on Yehuda Street which leads from Baka up to Talpiot-Arnona, I saw that the road was closed. After sitting in traffic on the main street, Derech Hevron, I found that Chanoch Albek, the other road to enter our neighborhood, was also closed off with only police cars and ambulances permitted to go through. There were helicopters overhead and it was announced on the radio that an Arab-Israeli truck driver with Israeli license plates came out of the neighboring Arab village of Jabel el Mukaber and purposely drove into a group of soldiers at the Tayelet- Promenade.

The Tayelet, just two blocks from our home is the overlook where one can view from afar the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Aside from the Kotel, the Tayelet is one of the most popular places to read Megillat Eicha (Lamentations) on the eve of Tisha B’Av.

We felt like our neighborhood was under siege as we were not permitted to drive in.

I decided to go back to the Baka neighborhood to park and just walk home. We heard sirens wailing as the police and paramedics worked on getting all of the injured to the hospital. We were not yet aware of all of the details and the fact that four soldiers had been killed.

As we say in the Ezkera prayer (part of the Slichot service of Asara B’Tevet):

See my affliction and hear the sound of my prayer.

Hear my supplication, please hasten my salvation.

Do not avert your ear from my sigh, from my cry.

We learn in the Talmud, Rosh Hashana 18b, Rav Chana Bar Bizna said in the name of Rav Shimon Chasida: At the time when there is peace, the fast days will turn into days of joy and happiness. But when there is no peace, they will remain fast days.

This past Asara B’Tevet we learned that although Jerusalem is now a major city, it is still not entirely rebuilt and it is not fully at peace so as of now, we need to continue to fast on the days that commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem.

May peace be restored speedily in our days and may we merit the opportunity to see these sad days converted into days of joy and gladness.

Jerusalem under Siege Print E-mail
Friday, 13 December 2013

Right now, Jerusalem feels like it is under siege. The roads that enter and exit the city are all closed down due to a snowstorm (about 30 cm of snow).


The fact that this is happening today is very significant as it is the Fast of the 10th of Tevet, the day that marks Nevuchadnetzer’s siege of Jerusalem in the year 588 BCE, a year and a half before he ultimately destroyed the Beit HaMikdash (Temple).


Aside from fasting, we also say special Slichot prayers and read a Haftara from Yishayahu 55:6-56:8.


In the Slichot prayers for the Tenth of Tevet, we read about all of the calamities that happened on the Tenth of Tevet and the importance of repentance.


We recite the words: “Chadesh yamenu kiKedem”, renew our days as of old, O Eternal God who dwells in the heavens. Make crimson sin white as wool and make stains snow white.


This concept comes from Yishayahu 1:18-20: “Come now let us reason together, says God: If your sins are like scarlet they will become white as snow; if they become red as crimson they will become white as wool. If you are willing to obey you will eat the goodness of the Land but if you refuse and rebel you will be devoured by the sword- for the mouth of God has spoken.”


The Haftara, also from the book of Yishayahu Chapters 55-56 discusses the importance of repentance. Those who return to God will be forgiven.


In Yishayahu 55:10-12 we read:


“For just as the rain and snow descend from heaven and will not return there, rather it waters the earth and causes it to produce and sprout and gives seed to the sower and food to the eater, so shall be My word that emanates from My mouth, it will not return to Me unfulfilled unless it will have accomplished what I desired and brought success where I sent it. For in gladness you will go out and in peace you shall arrive, the mountains and hills will break out in glad song before you and all of the trees of the field will clap hands.”


Yishayahu is comparing God’s word to rain and snow. Rain and snow don’t return to the heavens and we don’t always appreciate them when they are falling but once the plants begin to grow we begin to appreciate the fact that it rained or snowed, we too must wait patiently and God’s word will also be fulfilled. Gladness and peace will eventually come to the Land and people of Israel.


This Shabbat will be a difficult one, as many people are stranded away from their families both inside and outside of Jerusalem. However, we have seen the tremendous outpouring of chesed, loving kindness with people opening their homes to help those who are unable to return to their own homes until the roads are cleaned up.


The true message of the Fast of the 10th of Tevet is that we must repent, change our ways and do acts of loving kindness in order to bring about true peace in the Land of Israel as well as the building of the Third Beit HaMikdash in Jerusalem.


Lets hope that the prophecy comes true and that “the mountains and hills will break out in glad song and all of the trees of the field will clap hands” as those who were stranded outside of the city return to Jerusalem.

Insights into the Tenth of Tevet Print E-mail
Wednesday, 04 January 2006

The Tenth of Tevet is considered a minor fast day. Many Jews are not even aware that this fast even exists. The reason why it is considered minor is because we are only restricted from eating and drinking. The fast only takes place during the day and the stringencies of Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av such as not showering, not wearing leather shoes etc.don't apply.

The fast of the Tenth of Tevet is not minor in terms of its importance. The Tenth of Tevet is the day that the walls of Jerusalem were surrounded before the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash (Temple). The occurences on the Tenth of Tevet were the first steps which ultimately led to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash.

In the Book of Zechariah, the question was asked whether the fasts associated with the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash would still need to be observed once the Beit HaMikdash was rebuilt.

The answer was that in times of complete peace these fast days would actually be transformed to holidays and mourning would actually be forbidden. However, the Beit HaMikdash would only remain if people treat each other with respect.

Unfortunately, we know the end of the story. The Second Beit HaMikdash was destroyed and now we are back to the drawing board. The fasts have been reinstituted.

Since the founding of theState ofIsrael, we are now in a new redemptive period. A lot of what is happening in Israel today evokes Zechariah's prophecy (Zecharia Chapter 8):

""Thus says HaShem: I have returned to Tzion and will dwell in the midst of Yerushalayim: and Yerushalayim shall be called the city of truth...Behold I will save my people from the east country and the west country, I will bring them in and they will dwell in the midst of Yerushalayim, they will be my people and I will be their God in truth and righteousness...These are the things that you shall do: speak truth to your neighbor, execute the judgement of truth and peace in your gates and let none of you devise evil in your heart against your neighbor and love no false oath: for all of these things I hate says HaShem... The fast of the fourth month (17th of Tamuz) and the fast of the fifth month (Tisha B'Av) and the fast of the seventh (Tzom Gedalia) and the fast of the Tenth (10th of Tevet) shall be times of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts to the house of Yehuda, therefore love the truth and peace.""

Aside from just fasting this year, let's take it upon ourselves to work on the mitzvot of Ben Adam LeChavero, mizvot between a person and their fellow person. Through the observance of these mitzvot we can ultimatelybring about the building of the Third Beit HaMikdash which will never be destroyed.