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Asarah B’Tevet - Tenth of Tevet

Asarah B'Tevet

Remembering the Siege of Jerusalem

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If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! - Psalm 137:5

Asarah B'Tevet (the Tenth of Tevet) is a minor fast day (i.e., observed from sunrise to sunset) that marks the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon (in 587 BC) and the beginning of the battle that ultimately would destroy the Temple and send the Jews into the 70-year Babylonian Exile. Though it begins a week after Chanukah, there is no relationship with that holiday, since the siege of Nebuchadnezzar predated the time of the Maccabean revolt by hundreds of years.

The Babylonian siege is recounted in 2 Kings 25:1-2:

Nebuchadnezzer

Nebuchadnezzer

    "And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month (Tevet), in the tenth day of the month (Asarah B'Tevet), that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about. And the city was besieged..."
     


The Cycle of Minor Fasts and the Fall of Jerusalem


Three years after Jerusalem was besieged, Nebuchadnezzar finally broke through the city walls (on the 17th of Tammuz) and destroyed the Temple three weeks later (on the 9th of Av). Asarah B'Tevet is therefore part of the cycle of fasts connected with the events surrounding the destruction of the Temple:

  1. Jerusalem Besieged - The fast of Asarah B'Tevet (Tevet 10) marks the day when Nebuchadnezzer first besieged Jerusalem in 587 BC.
  2. Walls Breached - The Fast of the 17th of Tammuz marks the date when Nebuchadnezzer broke through the walls of Jerusalem and began the 3 week campaign to destroy the Temple (marks the start of the three weeks of sorrow)
  3. Temple Destroyed - The fast of Tishah B'Av (Av 9) marks the fateful day when the Temple was destroyed (marks the last day of the 3 weeks of sorrow).
  4. Exile - The fast of Gedaliah (Tishri 3) marks the dreadful consequences of the exile and further rebellion.

Asarah B'Tevet Customs

In Israel, Asarah B'Tevet also marks the day the Kaddish (memorial prayer) is recited for people whose date or place of death is unknown. This has resulted in a day of mourning for the many Jews who perished during the Holocaust.

The Fast of Asarah B'Tevet is viewed as such an important fast day that it is observed even if it falls on a Friday (erev Shabbat).

Click to Recite

Synagogue services normally include prayers of repentance (selichot) and the Torah portion recalls the story of the idolatry of the golden calf (Exodus 32:11 - 34:10). Minchah (afternoon) services include readings from Isaiah 55 and 56. Traditionally, the death of Ezra the Scribe is also remembered on Tenth of Tevet (even though he is said to have died on the 9th).

Tevet and the Septuagint

According to the Talmud, in the third century before Messiah the translation of the Torah into Greek was finished on the 8th of Tevet.  This translation of the Torah is called the "Septuagint," a name that means "seventy" that derives from the tradition that 72 Jewish scholars were involved in the translation effort. The Septuagint is also called the LXX, the Roman Number represenation for 70, the nearest round number to 72.



The 8th of Tevet is sometimes regarded as a fast day because the Septuagint is considered a work of assimilation that abandoned Jewish identity and culture for the cause of Hellenism.

Asarah B'Tevet and the Birth of Messiah

Messianic Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim wrote that an early Aramaic source document called "The Scroll of Fasts" (i.e., Megillat Ta'anit: מְגִילַת תַעֲנִית), which included additional commentary in medieval Hebrew (called scholium), may refer to the 9th of Tevet as the day of Yeshua's birth (i.e., sometime during late December in our Gregorian calendars).  Note that Jewish history regards the month of Tevet to be one of national tragedy, marking the beginning of the destruction of the Holy Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (in 587 BC). After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, the early sages might have associated the birth of Yeshua as yet another reason for mourning the loss of the Temple on this date. (For more about the controversial date of the birth of Yeshua, see the article, "Christmas: Was Jesus really born on December 25th?")

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