Why We Fast on Asarah B'Tevet: Jerusalem Under Siege
With the upcoming fast day of Asarah B’Tevet, many people may be wondering why it is that we fast on this day. There are many fasts from our Rabbis and sages throughout history and Asarah B’Tevet is one of great importance and it is imperative to understand why it is that we are fasting in order to get the full effect of the day itself altogether.
On the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, a fast day was declared by our Rabbis because the city of Jerusalem was surrounded by the Babylonian army led by Nebuchadnezzar. The army besieged Jerusalem for two and a half years during which thousands of Jewish people perished from thirst and starvation. The Babylonians cut off the water and food supply into Jerusalem which enabled the Jewish people to suffer greatly and become as weak as possible in order for the Babylonians to break in and conquer.
On the tenth of Tevet, the Babylonians began their surrounding of the city, on the seventeenth of Tamuz they tore down the walls of Jerusalem, and on Tisha B’Av, they destroyed the Bet Hamikdash, also known as our temple.
It is important to understand the Jewish nation’s relationship with Hashem as well as Jerusalem and our temple on the tenth of Tevet when one is fasting. Our Rabbis explain this relationship with a metaphor in which the concepts of the Jewish nation, Hashem, and our Bet Hamikdash are all compared to parts of the human body. Within this metaphor, Hashem exists as the head while the rest of the body represents the nation of Israel.
The Bet Hamikdash, according to the Rabbis, represents the neck. As human beings, our neck provides sustenance for our bodies in order to survive through various entities including our throat, wind pipe, etc. So to, the Bet Hamikdash not only connects the nation of Israel to Hashem as a neck connects the head to the body, but it also provides prestige and prosperity to the nation as well.
Through our loss of the Bet Hamikdash, we lost the blessings that came along with it. The Gemara says that every passing day that we do not have the Bet Hamikdash, the more tragedies and negative experience will fall on to the Jewish nation.
The Chatam Sofer states that on Asarah B’Tevet, Hashem looks down on the Jewish people to see if they are deserving of Him to rebuild our Bet Hamikdash. This is why it is so important to rectify the mistakes that caused the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash which was primarily Sinat Chinam. Sinat Chinam can be translated to mean the the Jewish people at the time hated one another with no legitimate reasoning behind it. It was baseless hatred throughout the Jewish nation which brought us and our Bet Hamikdash to its knees. Therefore, on Asarah B’Tevet, we should be extra careful in how we treat everyone we know including our spouses, children, family members, and even extended acquaintances.
The Gemara states that the main purpose of any fast is to repent, give charity, and pray. One who does not do these things on a fast day, it is said that they fasted in vein. The point of a fast, in my opinion, is to stop our daily lives and routines in order to focus on what is truly important.
Let us all have an easy and meaningful fast and keep in mind the importance of this day in order to bring Mashiach quickly in our days!
Rabbi Yosef Churba is the founder of Sephardic.Org as well as Rosh Yeshiva of Magen Avraham Yeshiva in Brooklyn NY. It is with his guidance that this amazing website remains on the correct path in order to inspire Jewish people around the world.