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Tenth of Tevet ( , Asara BeTevet), the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, is a minor fast day in Judaism. It falls out either seven or eight days after the conclusion of Hannukah, depending on whether Rosh Chodesh of Tevet that year is observed for one day or two. The Tenth of Tevet commemorates the onset of the siege that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia laid to ancient Jerusalemmarker, an event that ultimately led to the destruction of Solomon's Templemarker (the First Temple) and Babylonia's conquest of southern Israel's Kingdom of Judah.

History

The text in II Kings ( ) tells us that on the 10th day of the 10th month (which is Tevet when counting from Nisan, the "first month" in the Tanach), in the ninth year of his reign, (588 BCE), Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem. Two and a half years later, on the 9th of Tammuz (cf. Jeremiah 52.6-7), 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. The Tenth of Tevet can thus be considered part of the cycle of fasts connected with these events, which also includes: Shivah Asar B'Tammuz (17th of Tammuz) and Tisha B'Av (9th of Av).The first mention of the Tenth of Tevet as a fast appears in Zechariah ( ) where it is called the "fast of the tenth month" (Tevet). One opinion in the Talmud (b. Rosh Hashana 18b), however, states that the "fast of the tenth month" refers to the fifth of Tevet, when, according to Ezekiel ( ), news of the destruction of the Temple reached those already in exile in Babylon. However, the tenth is the date universally observed today. Other references to the fast and the affliction can be found in (the siege) and Jeremiah ( ).

According to tradition, as described by the liturgy for the day's selichot, the fast also commemorates other ignominious events that occurred throughout Jewish history on the tenth of Tevet and the two days preceding it:
  • On the eighth of Tevet one year during the 200s BCE, a time of Hellenistic rule of Judea during the Second Temple period, Ptolemy, King of Egypt, ordered production of the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Seventy sages were put into solitary confinement and ordered to translate the Torah into Greek. The expected outcome would be a multitude of different translations which would then be compared and critiqued by the Greeks. This would then openly show the meaninglessness of the Torah and the divergent opinions of the rabbis interpretation of its meaning. However, all seventy sages independently made exact translations into Greek. The Greeks saw this as a most impressive feat. However, various rabbinical sources see this event as a great tragedy, a debasement of the divine nature of the Torah, and a subversion of its spiritual qualities. They reasoned that upon translation from the original Hebrew, the Torah's legal codes & deeper layers of meaning will be lost. Many Jewish laws are formulated by specific Hebrew words the Torah employs; without the original Hebrew code authenticity of the legal system will be damaged. The mystical meanings contained in the Torah are also based upon the original Hebrew. As such, these will not be accessed by individuals learning the Torah in Greek (or any other language) alone. Other ancient sources, such as Philo, consider it a miraculous achievement, a cause for jubilation rather than mourning. Philo in fact suggests that the day was marked by celebration.
  • Ezra the Scribe, the great leader who brought the Jews back to the holy land from the Babylonian exile and who ushered in the era of the Second Temple, died on the ninth of Tevet.


Observance

As with all minor Jewish 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, and in contrast to Tisha B'Av, there are no additional physical constraints beyond fasting (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.

A Torah reading, a special prayer in the Amidah (Aneinu), and (in many communities) the Avinu Malkeinu prayer are added at both Shacharit and Mincha services (unless the fast falls on Friday, when Tachanun and Avinu Malkeinu are not said at Mincha). At Shacharit services, the Selichot are also said, and at Mincha, the Haftarah is read.

The fast can occur on a Friday resulting in the unusual event of a Torah and Haftarah reading at the Mincha service right before Shabbat. This is a fairly rare occurrence. The last two times this happened were on 20 December 1996 and 5 January 2001; the next time will be on 17 December 2010.

Although this fast is considered a minor fast, it has an additional stringency not shared by any other fast except Yom Kippur, namely that if the Tenth of Tevet were to fall out on a Shabbat, then this fast would actually be observed on Shabbat. This is because of the phrase ("the very day") that appears in , similar to the phrase describing Yom Kippur in . However under the current calendrical scheme, the Tenth of Tevet cannot fall on Shabbat.

A few have chosen to observe the Tenth of Tevet as a "general kaddish day" for the victims of the Holocaust, many of whom lack identifiable yahrtzeits (anniversaries of their deaths).

See also



References

  1. Tenth of Tevet
  2. The Tenth of Tevet – Asarah B'Tevet
  3. Tur Orach Chaim 580, quoting Bahag.
  4. This is what the selichot liturgy for the day states, and this is verified by the Kol Bo. But according to the earlier sources (the Geonim as recorded by Bahag and cited in Tur Orach Chaim 580), the specific tragedy of 9 Tevet is unknown. It should be noted that some manuscripts of Bahag (obviously not those available to the Tur) add that Ezra and Nechemiah died on this day—but only after first stating that the Rabbis have given no reason for why the day is tragic. Other suggestions are given as to why the ninth of Tevet is tragic as well.
  5. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 549-550, 561-562
  6. 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. (The Tenth of Tevet because it is the only minor fast day that can coincide with Friday with the current Jewish calendar.)
  7. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 566
  8. Tevet 10 - Holidays



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