THE GENERAL DAY OF KADDISH
Today, Dec. 25th occurs the Fast of The Tenth of Tevet – עשרה בטבת – (Asarah B’Tevet).
On the tenth of the Hebrew month of Tevet ~2,500 years ago, Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king began his siege of Jerusalem.
On Tish’a Be’Av (9th of Av), the First Temple was destroyed.
Our sages declared it a public fast.
It is one of four public fast days that memorialize different aspects of the catastrophes and national tragedies associated with the destruction of both Temples.
But, actually, there was little damage on that first day of the siege.
Why then has this become a day of fast?
And, actually The Fast of Asarah B’Tevet is quite unique. For example, exclusive to this fast is that it is the only one that we do actually observe as a fast on a Friday.
This is exactly the situation this year – people are fasting today on Friday!
Even Tisha B’Av (9th of Av), which commemorates the actual destructions of both Temples gets pushed off.
Yet, obviously, to maintain this distinction of being the only Fast Day that we actually do observe on Friday, there must be much more to the Fast of Asarah B’Tevet than meets the eye.
In seems that Asarah B’Tevet has several exceptional characteristics that are not found in any other fast day.
For instance, according to some commentators (Abudraham), if Asarah B’Tevet would potentially fall out on Shabbat, we would all actually be required to fast even on Shabbat.
(In our current fixed Hebrew calendar this is an impossibility).
AbuDraham’s statement is perplexing.
How can one of the minor fasts (not commanded by the Torah, only ordered by Rabbis), push off the Biblical Shabbat?
Additionally, Asarah B’Tevet commemorates merely the start of the siege, and not any actual destruction.
How can it be considered a more important fast than Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction and loss of both of our Temples?
The Chatam Sofer says that the reason our sages established a fast for the siege on Asarah B’Tevet as opposed to every other time Jerusalem was under siege, is that on that day in the Heavenly Courtroom it was decided that the Temple was to be destroyed a few years hence.
Therefore, he explains, every Asarah B’Tevet the Heavenly Court convenes and decrees a new calamity.
He adds though that, conversely, a fast on Asarah B’Tevet has the potential to avert future calamities.
In the consciousness of People of Israel, a fast day is a time of reckoning, a time to correct something in our past.
But, in the case of Asarah B’Tevet it comes out that we are not fasting exclusively due to past calamities, but rather to help prevent a future tragedy from occurring.
That is why the fast of Asarah B’Tevet, even though it is considered a minor fast, nonetheless has the potential to possibly override Shabbat.
These explanations would also certainly elucidate why we would fast on a Friday for Asarah B’Tevet.
Yom Hakadish Haklali (The General Day of Kaddish) reflects Judaism’s deliberate effort to help us honor everyone in our past. As we think about those who have come before us, we are inspired to live a life worthy of their memory.
And we hope that the words of the Prophet Zechariah,
“The Fast of the Fourth (month, 17th of Tamuz), the Fast of the Fifth (month, Tisha B’Av), the Fast of the Seventh (month, Tzom Gedalyah), and the Fast of the Tenth (month, Asarah B’Tevet) shall be (changed over) for celebration and joy for the household of Yehuda”.
be fulfilled soon.
Orly & Yoel
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