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Tuesday, Tevet 10, 5783 (Hakhel Year) / January 3, 2023


Today, (Tuesday)the 10th day of the Hebrew month, Tevet, is a fast day.


Q.  What happened on the 10th of Tevet to warrant it a fast day?


A.  On the 10th of Tevet in the year 3336 (-425), Nebuchadnezar, King of Babylon, began his siege of Jerusalem.  It ended in the year 3338 (-423), with the destruction of the First Beth Hamikdash (Holy Temple) and the exile of Jews from Israel to Babylon. 


Though Nebuchadnezar's mighty army laid siege to Jerusalem, the small Jewish army within its walls inflicted heavy losses on their attackers.  Despite starvation in the city, they fought heroically for two and a half years.  Finally, on the 17th of Tammuz, Nebuchadnezar's army breached the walls of Jerusalem.  Three weeks later, on the 9th of Av, they set fire to the Holy Temple. 


The First Temple was built by King Solomon four hundred and forty years after the Jewish people came to Israel.  The First Temple stood for 410 years until it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezar.


Q.   Why should we remember a tragic event which took place over two thousand years ago?


A.    The Code of Jewish Law states the reason for these fasts: "The purpose of the fast is to stir our hearts to repentance and to remind us of our own misdeeds, as well as those of our ancestors, which brought upon them, as well as upon us, all these troubles. Remembering these events and lamenting them encourages us to improve our ways."   


The Prophets tell us that eventually when Moshiach comes, these fast days will be suspended and will, instead become days of happiness, rejoicing and festivity.  May it be speedily in our days.  Amen.


Q.    How many fast days are there throughout the year and which are they?


A.   There are six fast days during the year.  The order of the fasts as they occur in the Hebrew calendar are: Tzom Gedaliya - Fast of Gedaliya (3rd of Tishrei); Yom Kippur (10th of Tishrei); Asara B'Tevet (10th of Tevet); Ta'anit Esther - Fast of Esther (13th of Adar); Shiva Asar B'Tammuz (17th of Tammuz); Tisha B'Av (9th of Av). 


Four of them, Tzom Gedaliya, Asara B'Tevet, Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, Tisha B'Av, are connected with the destruction of the Holy Temple.


With this week’s Parsha, Vayechi, we conclude the first Book of the Torah – the Book of Breishis (Genesis). At the conclusion of the Torah reading on Shabbat, everyone announces in unison, “Chazak, Chazk, V’nischazek” – “Be strong! Be strong! May we be strengthened!” Torah is our life and concluding the first Book of the Torah gives us strength to continue all the other Books of the Torah.