Under Siege: The Tenth of Tevet

Question

Dear Rabbi, what is the Jewish fast day that I heard is observed on Friday, Dec. 25? Thank you.

3 months

Answers

  1. The Jewish fast day you ask about is on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, and is therefore known as “Asara b’Tevet,” which means “the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet.” This fast is observed from morning until night. As you mention, this year (2020) the fast is on Friday, Dec. 25th.

    It is one of four fast days mentioned in the writings of the prophet Zecharia. Verse 8:19 states: “The fast of the 4th month (17th of Tammuz), the fast of the 5th (Hebrew month of Av, i.e. the 9th of Av, aka Tisha b’Av), the fast of the 7th (Hebrew month of Tishrei, i.e. Tzom Gedalia) and the fast of the 10th (month of Tevet, i.e. Asara b’Tevet).”

    All these dates and fasts are associated with the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Asara b’Tevet marks the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem, which ultimately resulted in driving out the Jewish dwellers of the city, burning of the Temple and the complete razing of Jerusalem. “In the 10th month, on the 10th day of the month… on this very same day, the King of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem on this very same day.” (Yechezkel 24:1-2)

    Since Yechezkel emphasizes, “On this very same day,” the fast of 10 Tevet — unlike other fast days — takes place despite it sometimes being on Friday, like this year, and running right up to Shabbat.

    On a more upbeat note, Zecharia speaks in verse 19 of a time when the four historical fasts “will be times of joy and gladness, and festival seasons for the Jewish People.”

    In recent times, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has chosen 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). It is a day for both personal and national introspection, with the goal of bettering our ways, with hopes and prayers for a brighter future.

    May we soon see this fast day, and the other fast days, turned into days of great national joy and happiness!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team