Fasting on New Years?!

10th of Tevet fell on January 1 – What does it mean?

While the whole world celebrated on December 31 and January 1, observant Jews around the world and here in Israel fasted!

There are actually four New Years in the Hebrew Calendar (subject for an article on its own). And January 1 is not one of them. However the night of December 31 this year fell on the 10th Day of the Hebrew month of Tevet.

The winter months,  when the days are short and there is little physical light, are times of spiritual darkness and physical challenge for the Jewish people.

On the 10th of the month of Tevet in the year 588 BCE, the Babylonian King Nevuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Thirty months later, the walls of the holy city were breached on the 17 of Tammuz. Finally the first Temple was destroyed on the 9th of the month of Av.

Each one of these days is commemorated as a fast day. The 9th of Av is a full 25 hour fast. The 10th of Tevet and the 17th of Tammuz are “half-day” fasts from sun up to sun down.

Usually each special day on the Hebrew calendar has a unique message. Passover teaches us about freedom. Sukkot  teaches us about happiness. Why do we have THREE days throughout the year to fast for the destruction of the Temple?

Our tradition teaches us that fasting alone achieves nothing. It’s as if you avoided a meal which provided food for your dog. The point of fasting is to awaken us to do “teshuva” – which means change our ways from what led us to this tragedy.

The Talmud says that in each generation that the Temple is not rebuilt, it is as if that generation destroyed the Temple. The implication being that if we learned the lesson of the destruction and changed our ways as a nation, the Temple would be rebuilt.

God, in His kindness, does not want us to suffer. He just wants us to fix our relationship with Him. Therefore He whispers to us first. The destruction doesn’t come all at once. First the siege happens. Then the breaching of the walls. If we would have done a proper “teshuva” – fixing our actions when the siege started, there would have been no need for the breaching of the walls, nor the destruction of the Temple and exile of the Jews to Babylon.

May we be blessed to hear the whispers of HaShem, correct our ways, and merit to see the ultimate redemption speedily in our days.

Fasting on New Years?!

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