The Fast of Tevet 10 - עשרה בטבת

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


In this study I would like to examine the implications and background for the Fast of Tevet 10 (the fast of the tenth month - Asara  b'Tevet - עשרה בטבת). This is a day of fasting and mourning.

 

Tevet 10 marks the first event in a chain, which resulted in the eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple, and the exile of the Jewish people.

 

The essential significance of the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, as well as that of the other fast days, is not primarily the grief and mourning which they evoke. Their aim is rather to awaken the hearts towards repentance; to recall to us, both the evil deeds of our fathers, and our own evil deeds, which caused anguish to befall both them and us and thereby to cause us to return towards the good. As it is said (Vayikra 26): And they shall confess their transgressions and the transgressions of their fathers.[1]

 

The tenth day of the tenth month – the Tenth of Tevet (Asara B’Tevet - עשרה בטבת), is a fast day, the fast of Tevet 10. It falls out either seven or eight days after the conclusion of Chanukah, depending on whether Rosh Chodesh of Tevet that year is observed for one day or two.

 

As with all minor fast days, the Tenth of Tevet begins at dawn and concludes at nightfall. In accordance with the general rules of minor fasts as set forth in the Code of Jewish Law[2], and in contrast to Tisha B’Av, there are no additional physical constraints beyond fasting from food and water (such as the prohibitions against bathing or of wearing leather shoes). Because it is a minor fast day, halacha exempts from fasting those who are ill, even if their illnesses are not life threatening, and pregnant and nursing women who find fasting difficult.[3]

 

Today our calendar calculation is such that the only public fast which can fall on Erev Shabbat is the tenth of Tevet. When it does, we fast the entire day until Shabbat kiddush.

 

Dates

 

 

(10th of Tevet, 5775)

 

(10th of Tevet, 5776)

 

(10th of Tevet, 5777)

 

(10th of Tevet, 5778)

 

(10th of Tevet, 5779)

 

(10th of Tevet, 5780)

 

(10th of Tevet, 5781)

 

(10th of Tevet, 5782)

 

Tevet 10 falls on

Sunday 30% of the time,

Tuesday 28%,

Wednesday 4%,

Thursday 18%, and

Friday 20% of the time.

Never on Monday or Shabbat. Tevet 10 is the only fast that can fall on Friday in our fixed calendar.

 

Observations Dealing with the Six Fast Days
It should come as no surprise that Sunday and Thursday are the most “fasted on” days of the week. They have their own fasts as well as those moved from Shabbat. Note also that all six fasts can fall on Thursday - the only day of the week with that distinction.

 

The days on which our Sages decreed that we fast are connected in some fashion to our nation’s exile. The Sages recognized that our exile was an affliction put upon us out of love, by HaShem, so that we would learn from our errors.

 

The tenth day of the tenth month, the Fast of Tevet, is first mentioned in:

 

Zecharyiah (Zechariah) 8:19 Thus saith HaShem of hosts; The fast of the fourth [month], and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.

 

Four fast days are mentioned in this pasuk. The Talmud tells us why we fast on these days:

 

Rosh HaShana 18b It has been taught: R. Simeon said: There are four expositions among those given by R. Akiba with which I do not agree. [He said]: ‘The fast of the fourth month’ — this is the ninth of Tammuz, on which a breach was made in the walls of the city, as it says, On the fourth month on the ninth of the month the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land, and a breach was made in the city. Why is it called fourth? As being fourth in the order of months. ‘The fast of the fifth month’: this is the ninth of Ab, on which the House of our God was burnt. Why is it called fifth? as being fifth in the order of months. ‘The fast of the seventh month’: this is the third of Tishri on which Gedaliah the son of Ahikam was killed. Who killed him? Ishmael the son of Nethaniah killed him; and [the fact that a fast was instituted on this day] shows that the death of the righteous is put on a level with the burning of the House of our God. Why is it called the seventh? As being the seventh in the order of months. ‘The fast of the tenth month’: this is the tenth of Tebeth on which the king of Babylon invested Jerusalem, as it says, And the word of the Lord came unto me in the ninth year in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, saying, Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this selfsame day; this selfsame day the king of Babylon hath invested Jerusalem. Why is it called the tenth? As being the tenth in the order of months. [It might be asked], should not this have been mentioned first? Why then was it mentioned in this place [last]? So as to arrange the months in their proper order. I, however, [continued R. Simeon], do not explain thus. What I say is that ‘the fast of the tenth month, is the fifth of Tebeth on which news came to the Captivity that the city had been smitten, as it says, And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one who had escaped out of Jerusalem came to me saying, The city is smitten, and they put the day of the report on the same footing as the day of burning. My view is more probable than his, because I make the first [mentioned by the prophet] first [chronologically] and the last last, whereas he makes the first last and the last first, he, however, following [only] the order of months I [also follow] the order of calamities.

 

The Shulchan Aruch[4] gives us an understanding of why the tenth day of the tenth month is significant. He writes that on the tenth day of Tevet, the wicked Nevuchadnezzar, the king of Bavel, laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. Three years later, on the 17th of Tammuz, he broke through the city walls. The siege ended with the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the 9th of Av, the end of the first Kingdoms and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon. This was the end of southern Israel’s Kingdom of Judah.

 

Tevet 10 thus marks the beginning of the siege around Jerusalem by the Babylonians, prior to the destruction of the first Temple.

 

The Talmud tells us that the first Temple was destroyed because the Jewish people were steeped in idol worship, illicit relations, and murder. These sins were crimes against HaShem, against one’s self, and against one’s neighbor. What was the root cause of the proliferation of these three evils? The pursuit of sensual pleasures, self gratification. The self was placed before anyone else. An individual was concerned solely for his welfare and benefit.

 

This event is mentioned in:

 

Melachim (Kings) 25:1 And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth [day] of the month, [that] Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it: and they built forts against it round about.

 

At the time of this siege, there were already Jews who were in exile in Babel, where the prophet Yechezkel (Ezekiel) lived. HaShem came to Yechezkel in a prophecy, to inform him of the siege of Jerusalem. This prophecy is related to us in:

 

Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 24:1 Again in the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth [day] of the month, the word of HaShem came unto me, saying, Son of man, write thee the name of the day, [even] of this specific day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.

 

Chazal teach that if  the tenth of Tevet fell on Shabbat, it would not be postponed and we would fast on Shabbat. In our calendar, this cannot happen; the point is of academic interest only. It is based upon the wording in Yechezkel that speaks of the Siege being on the 10th of the month, on this specific day. This is the same terminology as is used in the Torah’s description of Yom HaKippurim, hence the similarity:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto HaShem. 28  And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before HaShem your God. 29  For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that specific day, he shall be cut off from among his people. 30  And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. 31

 

Why did HaShem want the Prophet to write down the tenth day of the tenth month? Chazal teach that this date was recorded to combat the false prophets who had declared that Jerusalem would never fall. Also, when we write a date down it is because that date will be meaningful in the future.

 

The prophets tell us that when the Mashiach comes these mournful days will become days of gladness and joy:

 

Zechariah 8:19 Thus saith HaShem of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.

 

The four public fasts mentioned by the prophet are: Asara B’Tevet (Fast of the tenth month), Tzom Gedaliah (Fast of the seventh month), Shiva Asar B’Tammuz (Fast of the fourth month), and Tisha B’Av (Fast of the fifth month). Thus we see that these fasts are prophetic of the Messianic age when there will be no more mourning and no more fasting.

 

The strength, both of the obligation to fast and its positive influences, of the Tenth of Tevet stems from the fact that it commemorates the first of the tragedies associated with the destruction of the Temple. Thus this date begins the process of destruction. It is well known that the beginning of any process contains more power than the subsequent stages and for this reason, there is added power to the Tenth of Tevet. The positive influences of the Tenth of Tevet are connected to the fact that a fast day is a day of will when our prayers and teshuva (repentance) are more willingly accepted by HaShem.

 

As we are taught that the beginning is wedged in the end,[5] and the ultimate end purpose of the destruction of the Holy Temples will be the rebuilding of the third and eternal Temple, the Tenth of Tevet is an auspicious day to hasten the coming of the redemption.

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 66:10 Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all of you who love her; rejoice with her with great rejoicing, all of you who mourn for her.

 

“He who mourns Jerusalem will be privileged to see its rebuilding.”[6]

 

Torah Readings

 

There is a special torah readings for the tenth of Tevet. The reading is Exodus 32:11-14; 34:1-10. The Haftarah is taken from Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8.

 

Events

 

The following events occurred on the tenth of Tevet:

 

Fast of the tenth of Tevet. Zechariah 8:19, Rosh HaShannah 18b

 

Water swells on the earth in the days of Noah. Day 12. Genesis 7:24

 

HaShem tells Ezekiel to record this day for the siege of Jerusalem.  Ezekiel 24:1

 

Babylon lays siege to Jerusalem, in 586 BCE.[7]  Ezekiel 24:1, 2 Kings 25 

 

Jeremiah purchased a field and prophesied, in 587 BCE. Jeremiah 32:9-15; Zikhron Yemot Olam

 

Zechariah dies. DDD

 

Malachi dies. DDD

 

Herod captured Yerushalayim, [37 BCE] Megilat Taanit.

 

After the Second World War, the Chief Rabbinate in Israel declared the tenth of Tevet to be a perpetual memorial to the victims of the Holocaust (January 11, 1949).

 

How To Fast

 

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 day.

 

- The fast of Asara B'Tevet only starts from the break of dawn and ends at nightfall. 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 to fast.

 

- 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 VayechalShemot 32: 11-14 and 34: 1-10), are added during the day.

 

Our sages teach us that "Whoever mourns over Jerusalem is deserving to witness her joy".[8] As it is written in Isaiah,[9] "rejoice greatly with her, all who mourn her." The Fast of Asara B'Tevet is one way that we mourn Jerusalem.

 

 

 


 

Zecharyiah (Zechariah) 8:19 lists the following four fasts as times of mourning which will be turned into times of joy:

 

FAST

DATE

EVENT

Tevet 10

3336 AM (424 BCE)

 

3758 AM (68 CE)

The seige of Jerusalem by Nevuchadnezzar the Babylonian.

 

The seige of Jerusalem by by Titus the Roman.

Tammuz 17

3338 AM (422 BCE)

 

 

3760 AM (70 CE)

The breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by Nevuchadnezzar the Babylonian.

 

The breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by Titus the Roman.

 

This was a major event leading up to the destruction of the First and second Temples.

Av 9

3338 AM (422 BCE)

 

 

3760 AM (70 CE)

The first Temple was destroyed by Nevuchadnezzar the Babylonian.

 

The second Temple was destroyed by Titus the Roman.

Tishri 3

3339 AM (422 BCE)

Gedalia, governor of Israel, is slain. This was a critical event in the downfall of the first commonwealth.

 


 

* * *

 


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com


 



[1] Rambam: Hilchot Ta’anit Chapter 5

[2] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 549-550, 561-562

[3] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 550:2. The Mishnah Berurah notes that it is still commendable to observe all the restrictions of Tisha B’Av on the minor fast days. Even so, he says, one should not refrain from bathing in preparation for Shabbat when the Tenth of Tevet falls out on a Friday. (He probably singles out the Tenth of Tevet because it is the only minor fast day that can coincide with Friday with the current Jewish calendar.

[4] Orech Chayim 549

[5] Sefer Yetzirah 1:7, Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 46:10.

[6] Baba Bathra 60b

[7] Tosefta Sotah 6:10

[8] Talmud Taanit 30b

[9] Chapter 66, verse 10.