Tenth of Tevet

This fast commemorates the beginning of the end of the First Temple.

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Abolishing Fasts? 

The relevance of past catastrophes for our own present and the way in which "striving to be better people" are comprehended in every generation is a function of "if" and "how" the community feels about the connection between past catastrophes and present problems and challenges. Thus, the tradition that allows for the abolition of all public fasts in a utopianfuture (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Taaniot, Chapter 5, 18) opened the door for those who could claim that in their present generation abolishing the fasts was justified.

Such thought surfaced especially during the era of Emancipation in Western and Central Europe, when some Jews felt that in getting "out of the Ghetto" they actually experienced the coming of the Messiah. Thus, some of them claimed it was time to cancel all public fasts. There was even an initiative to turn Tisha B'av [the fast commemorating the destruction of the Temples] into a holiday of emancipation.

The Zionist worldview, which is based on the aspiration to renew Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, allows a hallowed place for the memory of old Jerusalem's destruction. Zionist activists, religious and secular alike, have also granted a new meaning to the words "Remembering allows us to be better people." The lesson our Zionist forefathers took from the destruction of Jerusalem was not one of "returning to God's commandments and the fear of God," but rather the renewal of inter-Jewish solidarity and the assumption of responsibility for the life and future of the Jewish community.

Although the Zionist vision, realized in the establishment of Israel, prompted certain Jewish circles to perceive the era as the beginning of the Geula (redemption), traditional fast days were not canceled in the young state. Although most understood that the Geula would not be fulfilled until all outstanding problems were resolved and the majority of Jews were living in Israel, more important was the fresh memory of the Holocaust, which gave new meaning to Jewish traditional fasts and mourning traditions.

Adding New Meaning

In this context, the Tenth of Tevet acquired heightened significance. Based on the Talmudic tradition that "Bad things come to pass on an unlucky day" (Babylonian Talmud, Taanit Tractate, 29A), it was decided to turn the Tenth of Tevet into a religious memorial day for Shoah (Holocaust) victims. On the Tenth of Tevet, Tashat (1949), the Israeli Chief Rabbi Untermann declared that "the day on which the first hurban (destruction) commenced should become a memorial day also for the last hurban," and two years later (1951) the rabbinate decided officially to turn this day into a memorial day for Shoah victims whose date of death is unknown.  

It was decided that every household should light a Ner Zikharon (memorial candle) to memorialize the Tenth of Tevet.  

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Dr. Guy Miron

Dr. Guy Miron is Dean of the Graduate School of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. He is also a senior lecturer in Jewish history. Miron's research focuses on central European Jews in the first half of the 20th century.