Tenth of Tevet

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Tenth of Tevet
Official name Hebrew: עשרה בטבת
Observed by Jews
Type Judaism
Significance Commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia
Observances Fasting
Begins 10 Tevet
2013 date December 13
2014 date January 1, 2015

Tenth of Tevet (Hebrew: עשרה בטבת‎, Asarah BeTevet), the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, is a fast day in Judaism. It is one of the minor fasts observed from before dawn to nightfall. The fast commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia—an event that began on that date and ultimately culminated in the destruction of Solomon's Temple (the First Temple) and the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah (today southern Israel).

The day has no relationship to Chanukka, but it happens to follow that festival by a week. Whether the 10th of Tevet falls 7 or 8 days after Chanukka depends on whether the preceding Hebrew month of Kislev has 29 or 30 days in the relevant year.

History[edit]

According to II Kings (2), on the 10th day of the 10th month (which is Tevet when counted from Nisan, the "first month" according to Exodus 12:1–2), in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign (588 BCE), Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem. A year and a half later, on the 17th of Tammuz in the eleventh year of Zedekiah's reign[1] (586 BCE) (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 is thus considered part of the cycle of fasts connected with these events, which includes: Shivah Asar B'Tammuz (17th of Tammuz) and Tisha B'Av (9th of Av).

The first reference to the Tenth of Tevet as a fast appears in Zechariah (8:19) where it is called the "fast of the tenth month." One opinion in the Talmud (b. Rosh Hashana 18b) states that the "fast of the tenth month" refers to the fifth of Tevet, when, according to Ezekiel (33:21), news of the destruction of the Temple reached those already in exile in Babylon. However, the tenth is the date observed today, according to the other opinion presented in the Talmud.[2] Other references to the fast and the affliction can be found in Ezekiel 24:1–24:2 (the siege) and Jeremiah (52:4–52:6).[3]

According to tradition, as described by the liturgy for the day's selichos, the fast also commemorates other calamities 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 BC, a time of Hellenistic rule of Judea during the Second Temple period, Ptolemy, King of Egypt, ordered the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, a work which later became known as the Septuagint.[4] Seventy two sages were placed in solitary confinement and ordered to translate the Torah into Greek. The expected outcome would be a multitude of different translations that would then be compared and critiqued by the Greeks as there were some sentences in the bible that could be understood as offensive to pagans if taken wrongly and would obviously need to be changed. This would demonstrate the muddled meanings of the Torah and the divergent opinions of Jewish interpreters. However, all seventy-two sages independently made identical translations into Greek. The Greeks saw this as a most impressive feat. However, various rabbinical sources see this event as a 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 would be lost. Many Jewish laws are formulated in terms of specific Hebrew words employed in the Torah; without the original Hebrew code, authenticity of the legal system would be damaged. The mystical ideas contained in the Torah are also drawn from the original Hebrew. As such, these would not be accessed by individuals studying the Torah in Greek (or any other language) alone.
  • On the ninth of Tevet, "something happened, but we do not know what it was..." (Shulchan Aruch). The selichot liturgy for the day states that Ezra the Scribe, the great leader who brought some Jews back to the Holy Land from the Babylonian exile and who ushered in the era of the Second Temple, died on this day, 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. 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 notable as well.[5]

Observance[edit]

As with all minor Jewish fast days, the Tenth of Tevet begins at dawn (alot ha-shahar) and concludes at nightfall (tzeit hakochavim). In accordance with the general rules of minor fasts as set forth in the Shulchan Aruch,[6] 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.[7] The Mishnah Berurah notes that it is still commendable to observe all the restrictions of Tisha B'Av on the minor fast days (except the restriction of wearing leather shoes). Even so, he says, one should not refrain from bathing in preparation for Shabbat when the Tenth of Tevet falls out on a Friday.[8]

The Tenth of Tevet is the only minor fast day that can coincide with Friday in the current Jewish calendar. If the fast occurs on a Friday, the unusual event of a Torah and Haftarah reading at the Mincha service right before Shabbat takes place. This is fairly rare; in the recent past it occurred in 1996, 2001, 2010 and 2013 and will again occur on a Friday in the years 2020, 2023, 2025, 2034 and 2037. Under the current calendrical scheme, the Tenth of Tevet cannot fall on Shabbat.

A Torah reading, the Aneinu prayer in the Amidah, and the Avinu Malkeinu prayer are added at both Shacharit and Mincha services in many communities, 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, in Ashkenazic congregations, the Haftarah is read.[9]

Although this fast is considered a minor fast, it has an additional theoretical 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 according to some, this fast would actually be observed on Shabbat. The reason the fast of the Tenth of Tevet and Yom Kippur must be observed on the actual day on which they occur is because of the phrase "the very day" (עצם היום הזה) is used in reference to both of them, in Ezekiel 24:2, in reference to the Tenth of Tevet and similarly for Yom Kippur in Leviticus 23:28.

If it falls on Friday, the fast must be observed until nightfall, even though the Shabbat begins before sunset (up to 72 minutes earlier, depending on the halachic authority), and even though this requires one to enter Shabbat hungry from the fast, something typically avoided. It can not be determined for sure whether other fasts would have the same ruling, because no other fast day can fall out on Friday.[10]

General day of kaddish[edit]

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel chose to observe the Tenth of Tevet as a "general kaddish day" (yom hakaddish ha'klalli) to allow the relatives of victims of the Holocaust, and whose yahrtzeits (anniversaries of their deaths) is unknown, to observe the traditional yahrtzeit practices for the deceased, including lighting a memorial candle, learning mishnayot and reciting the kaddish. According to the policy of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, the memorial prayer is also recited in synagogues, after the reading of the Torah at the morning services.[11] [12] To some religious Jews, this day is preferable as a remembrance day to Yom HaShoah, since the latter occurs in the month of Nisan, in which mourning is traditionally prohibited.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In the Biblical calendar, each year in the reign of the Kings of Judah or Israel is dated from 1 Nissan. For example, even if a king began his reign on 29 Adar, a day prior to 1 Nissan, the next day would already be tabulated as Year 2 of his reign. Hence, Tevet (tenth month) of Year 9 of Zedekiah is only 18 months prior to Tammuz (fourth month) of Year 11 of Zedekiah.
  2. ^ Tenth of Tevet
  3. ^ The Tenth of Tevet – Asarah B'Tevet
  4. ^ Tur Orach Chaim 580, quoting Bahag.
  5. ^ http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/715371/Dr._Shnayer_Leiman/Jewish_Perspectives_on_Early_Christianity_-_Nittel,_the_Ninth_of_Teves_and_Pope_Simon_Peter_-_Cong_Beth_Abraham
  6. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 549–550, 561–562
  7. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 550:2
  8. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 550 s.k. 6
  9. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 566
  10. ^ However, the Ninth of Av can fall out on Saturday night into Sunday, and in such a case one observes all stringencies of the fast (except the prohibition of wearing leather shoes) from sunset on Saturday evening.
  11. ^ Tevet 10 – Holidays
  12. ^ Amar, Shlomo. "Letter of the Rishon Le'Tzion concerning the 10th of Tevet" (in Hebrew). Retrieved 16 December 2013. 

External links[edit]