The twenty-second day of December, 2015 is also the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet. On this day more than 2,500 years ago, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar began a siege of Jerusalem (Rabbi Noah Weinberg, “Siege of Jerusalem”, aish, reprinted in 2015 from December 30, 2000). We remember this day as a day of tragedy for the Jewish people.
But nothing much happened on that first day of siege. There was little damage done (ibid). No Jews were killed (ibid).
If nothing much happened, why do we call this day, ‘tragic’? Why do we remember it by holding a public fast-day in its name every year?
It’s a tragic day for a couple of reasons. First, it led to the destruction of the first Holy Temple in 586 BCE. Second, the siege that began that day lasted perhaps three years and had a horrific ending. Both the Holy Temple and a capital city (Jerusalem) were destroyed.
Finally, we remember this day because we have come to realize in retrospect that that one day was the beginning of a very long line of disasters for the Jewish people (ibid). These disasters included two exiles, the ultimate destruction of Two Holy Temples (more than 500 years apart) and the murder of countless Jews.
That’s why this day is tragic. It’s why we hold a public fast.
We commemorate this long-ago siege-day of Jerusalem not only for the tragedies that resulted from it then, but also because this one day carries a message that resonates with us today.
That first siege day sent a message to the Jewish people. It was a wake-up call. It signalled that, if a foreign enemy was shutting them in, Jews were not behaving as they should.
It was a reminder that the Jewish people needed to wake up and fix their problems (ibid). They didn’t wake up. They failed. The siege then led to the destruction that followed.
The destruction that fell upon the Jews back then had been avoidable (Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, “Asara BeTeves: An Avoidable Siege”, Torah.org, reprinted from 2013). No destruction would have occurred if the Jewish people had listened to the Prophet Yirmiyahu.
They didn’t listen. They refused to listen (ibid).
Today, we are still under siege. We are still not listening.
We are besieged by Edom, the Christianized West, which leads an anti-Israel diplomatic attack against us. We are besieged by Yishmael, the Arab enemies of Israel who would destroy us and replace us with an Islamic Caliphate. We are besieged by anti-Jewish Jews abroad and in Israel who give aid and comfort to those who would destroy us—and who bring shame to the Jewish nation.
When we fast on this day, we should remember that long-ago wake-up call. We should remember we are surrounded by hate. We should remember we are besieged by Jews who would destroy our religious identity in the name of a Man-made ideology called, ‘democracy’.
Today is not just a day to fast. It’s a day to remember. It’s a moment to understand that when we fail to follow HaShem, the G-d of Israel, we pay a price.
May our fasting bring merit to the nation of Israel. G-d knows, this Jewish nation needs all the help He can give us.