Even if the Jews outside Israel don’t really like to hear it, I cannot imagine that Jews abroad are able to commemorate certain events in Jewish history as authentic as we do in Israel. And especially in Jerusalem. The latest example was Chanukkah.
What do Jews who have never been to Jerusalem know about the Site of the Kotel (Western Wall), the Temple Mount and our city? When you are standing right here in front of the sites where everything took place, you suddenly get a very different feeling and approach to the holidays.
The same is happening with the fast day of Asarah Be’Tevet. This fast day is a rabbinic fast but has a tremendous historical meaning. This year, Asarah Be’Tevet is starting tomorrow morning at around 5 o’clock. The fast ends in the early evening at 5.21 pm (in Jerusalem).
On this day, the siege over Jerusalem by the Babylonians began. One of the greatest tragedy in Jewish history. Three years later, on Tisha Be’Av, the First Temple was destroyed. The 10th Tevet stands for endless suffering and destruction.
Generally speaking, both Temple destructions are considered to be a G – dly punishment. During the times of the First Temple, the Jews participated in idol worship, sexual perversions and even sacrificed their children in the Tofet (a place near the today’s Cinematheque). The Tofet was one of the most horrifying sites in Jerusalem at that time. Even if the Jews believed in G – d, they misunderstood the principle of the sacrifices and thought that G – d favours children’s sacrifices.
Not only the Temple was destroyed. With it disappeared the Aron HaKodesh with the tablets, prophecy, the Shechina withdrew itself a little further, and even the Shemen HaMishcha was gone. Today we do not have any prophecy but rather a Bat Kol which Rashi describes as an echo of a Heavenly voice.
Today many of us might consider the Asarah Be’Tevet as a kind of minor fast. “What does this all have to do with me and the problems today”? Leading Rabbis appointed the 10th of Tevet as a Holocaust Memorial Day. Kaddish is said for all the Jews whose date of death or the location of the grave is unknown. Many Haredim consider the Asarah Be’Tevet as the real Holocaust Memorial Day and not the one stipulated by the Knesset. This is one of the reasons why especially Haredim do not stand still when we hear the sirens. Every year anew, this behaviour is causing harsh criticism but once you know their real reason, you can understand it. Their memorial day is Asarah Be’Tevet. A chassidic friend of mine once made a good point about the whole situation. She told me that the religious and particularly the haredi population does not need sirens or big shows. “What do you do anyway when you listen to the sirens?, she asked me. You look around and get exited. We, on the other hand, sit down and say Tehillim”. What she said was actually very true and I agree that silent mourning is the better way.
The Talmud Tractate Ta’anit 30b states that whoever mourns for Jerusalem, will witness its rebuilding. Hence, the Ge’ulah (Redemption). The 10th Tevet is a day of Teshuva and should lead our hearts to the realization to learn from the mistakes of our ancestors. Everybody should realize that the universe was only created for him (Talmud Sanhedrin 37a) and thus, each of us is responsible for his actions. Every Jew has a special purpose in life and among the Jewish people, and he has to fulfill this task. With his actions, he not only influences his generation but also the future generations until the coming of Meshiach.
Zom Kal – Have an easy Fast !!!