August 7, 2018

The fast of Tevet

This week is the fast of the Tenth of Tevet. However, while we only fast on the 10th of Tevet, this fast was established to commemorate three tragedies.
Firstly, it was on the 10th of Tevet when Nebuchadnezar, king of Babylon, began his successful siege of Jerusalem which ultimately led to the destruction of the first Temple and the subsequent exile of the Jews to Babylon.
Then, around a hundred years later on the 9th of Tevet, Ezra died. Ezra was a leader who, according to our Sages, was comparable to Moses in his understanding of the Torah. However, in addition to this, Ezra had observed how Jews had assimilated during their time in Babylon, and he was the first Kiruv worker who, along with Nechemiah (who also died on this date), introduced a variety of educational programmes to reconnect the Jewish people with their Jewish heritage.
Finally, around two hundred years after the death of Ezra, on the 8th of Tevet, we are told that Ptolemy Philadephus ordered that the Torah be translated into Greek, and though translations are generally assumed to enable more people to access a particular text, the translation of the Torah from hebrew (whose depth as a language enables a multifaceted approach to the text) to Greek reduced the depth to which Torah was able to be appreciated and understood.
Thus, on the 10th of Tevet, we mourn our Temple which was the centre of Torah study. We mourn our teachers who inspired us in Torah study, and we mourn the fact that so many people are disconnected from the authentic experience of Torah study. I should also add that, more recently, the 10th of Tevet was established by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel as the Yom haKaddish haKelali, the day to be set aside annually for the recital of kaddish by all those who do not know the date when their loved ones were murdered during the Holocaust.
Given all the above, I believe that an appropriate way to respond to these tragedies is by using the 8th, 9th and 10th of Tevet (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week) to share Torah with others, and /or to give a donation of time or money to those organisations who work tirelessly to help Jews reconnect with their heritage.
Wishing you all an easy fast!


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