Dear B’nai Shalom members, friends, and families:

As you read this bulletin article, we will either be preparing for the upcoming fast of Asarah B’Tevet, the 10th day of the month of Tevet or we will have already observed the fast day on Friday, Dec. 22nd.

This fast day may possess the distinction as being, perhaps the least known of the six public fast days we have on the Jewish calendar. It may be competing for that dubious distinction along with the fast days of Tzom Gedalyah – the Fast of Gedalyah (the day after Rosh Hashanah) and maybe even Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, the 17th day of Tammuz, (appearing in the summertime).

We observe this fast day as a tragic commemoration of the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by the Emperor Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonia, leading to the eventual destruction of the first Temple back in 586 BCE, (which at the time was the ONLY Temple – they didn’t know it would be destroyed nor that it would be rebuilt and IT would be destroyed).

Asarah B’Tevet is a “half-fast day” (as are all the fast days except Yom Kippur and Tisha B’av), beginning with dawn on the day of the fast and ending at darkness (as do ALL six fast days).

While the four “shorter” fast days are called “half” fast days, they certainly are NOT proportionally HALF of the longer two fast days. We identify the less lengthy four fast days in this way because we can eat until dawn in the morning of the fast, when the fast begins. This is NOT to be confused with “sunrise” which occurs approximately seventy-two minutes later.

This fast day is the “catch-all” fast day by many Charedi Jews for all tragedies and calamities that have befallen the Jewish people in history including the Holocaust. They do not typically recognize Yom HaShoah on its appointed day, the 27th of Nisan (because it is in the month of Nisan) and lump the commemoration and memorializing of the overwhelming catastrophe of the Holocaust with this day.

While it is relatively unknown by many Jews and certainly the shortest of all the fast days for us (except in the southern hemisphere), it has greater importance than its relatively obscure prominence because it was the first of the tragedies to befall the Jews. Its occurrence led to at least two other events: the eventual defeat of the Jews at the hands of the Babylonians – (marked by Shiva Asar B’Tammuz [when they reached the walls of J’salem] and the eventual destruction of the first Temple, commemorated by Tisha B’av).

Asarah B’Tevet is also the answer to two fairly obscure trivia questions which would be widely unknown by the general public population of the Jewish people especially since the fast day itself is not particularly well known. This fast day is the only one that can appear, as it does THIS YEAR, on a Friday. The other five fast days cannot come out calendar-wise, on a Friday. The other interesting and unusual point about this fast day is that it contributes one of the only two hours of possible fasting on Shabbat that are permitted, aside from the entire day of Yom Kippur when it falls out on Shabbat and IS observed as a fast day THAT day, (as opposed to pushing it off to another day).

When Asarah B’Tevet comes out on a Friday as it does this year, the last one hour coincides with the first one hour of Shabbat and thus, while we typically DO NOT fast on a Shabbat, we are officially fasting during those first sixty minutes of Shabbat under these circumstances. The OTHER time when one hour of fasting occurs on Shabbat is the LAST HOUR of Shabbat when it precedes Tisha B’av, coming out on a Saturday night and Sunday. In this scenario, we fast for the LAST one hour of Shabbat as it goes into the first one hour of Tisha B’av.

Naturally as mentioned, this excludes Yom Kippur which IS observed on Shabbat when it comes out that way since Yom Kippur cannot be postponed like other fast days. If Tisha B’av or Shiva Asar B’Tammuz come out on a Shabbat, we push them off for one day until Sunday. When Purim comes out on a Sunday, we move Taanit Esther (which is normally the day BEFORE Purim) to the preceding Thursday since, once again, we do not typically fast on Shabbat.

May it be the will of HaKadosh Baruch Hu (Almighty G-d) that this year’s Asarah B’Tevet be the LAST time we need to afflict ourselves by fasting since we believe that when the Moshiach will come, all fast days will disappear and we will exist in a time and atmosphere of peace, harmony, and eternal goodness.

With the ongoing events and tragic news continuing come out of Eretz Yisrael, may we double our efforts to merit the salvation of HaKadosh Baruch Hu and may He answer and respond to our tefillot in the manner we want, seek, and need.

With Torah blessings,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin