Answers

  1. The 10th day of the Hebrew month called Tevet, known as “Asarah b’Tevet”, is a fast day. The fast is observed from morning until night. This year (2018) the fast is on Tuesday, the 18th of December, from morning until night.

    Historically, the fast commemorates the day that the Babylonians first laid siege to Jerusalem, 423 BCE, cutting it off from the outside world. This not only laid the groundwork for the destruction of the Holy Temple but also caused horrific suffering for the besieged population of Jerusalem, resulting in many thousands who died from starvation and disease.

    In recent times, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel chose to observe the Tenth of Tevet as a “General Kaddish Day” for the victims of the Holocaust, many of whom lack identifiable yahrtzeits (anniversaries of their death).

    The purpose of fast days is to achieve a certain mood or state of mind (not self-torture). The prophets mention the obligation to mourn the exile through fasting, but they stress that the fast is primarily a means to gather the entire community together for prayer.

    The end result of a day of fasting should be self-improvement and positive change, or at the very least, acknowledgment that there is a need for change. The external aspects of the fast days are important, but the internal aspects are even more critical. If a person observes the fast meticulously, does not let a drop of water pass his lips or a crumb of bread enter his mouth, but does not engage in reflection or introspection, he or she has missed the point.

    Fasting for an entire day is certainly not pleasant, but this unpleasantness helps us to identify with the suffering of our fellow Jews throughout the exile. Through this process we should be inspired to improve our lives and become better people.

    This is a day for both personal and national introspection, with the goal of bettering our ways with hopes and prayers for a brighter future.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team