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Asara B’Tevet – Missed Opportunities

Rav Dovid Abrahamowitz

The tenth of Tevet marks the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s siege on Jerusalem. This date was set as a fast day since the times of the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash. During the rebuilding process of the second Beit Hamikdash, a delegation of Jews from Babylon travel to Israel to ask Zecharya if it is still necessary to fast on the days commemorating the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. Zechariah’s basic answer to the delegation teaches us the basic purpose of national mourning. Zecharya explains that the essence of the mourning is not the fasting, but rather action; the people need to effect change by creating a just society.

כה אמר ד' צבאות לאמר משפט אמת שפטו וחסד ורחמים עשו איש את אחיו: ואלמנה ויתום גר ועני אל תעשקו ורעת איש אחיו אל תחשבו בלבבכם (ז:י-ט)

Zechariah explains to the people that as long as they create a just society, Hashem will return to Jerusalem and the streets of Jerusalem will be filled with the elderly watching the children play in peace and love.

However, one thing stood in the way of Hashem’s complete return to Jerusalem and the second Beit Hamikdash; the Jewish people did not return. They remained in exile, comfortable in Babylon. As Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi explains in his famous work, The Kuzari, the complete redemption would have arrived had all the people returned to Jerusalem from Babylon when the opportunity arose. However, because they did not return, but rather “chose to remain in exile and to serve the kings of the nations, so as not to leave their homes and affairs,” we have not seen a complete redemption.

As the tenth of Tevet approaches, let us think of the words we say each day: ותחזנה עינינו בשובך לציון. Let us yearn to return to Israel, and let us return as a nation, as one. May we be zoche to build a just society, in Israel, with all our brothers and sisters as they return from the four corners of the earth. And then we will be zoche to see the words of Zechariah materialize in his promise that these days of sadness will be turned into days of Joy.

כה אמר ד' צבאות צום הרביעי וצום החמישי וצום השביעי וצום העשירי יהיה לבית יהודה לששון ולשמחהולמעדים טובים והאמת והשלום אהבו (ח:יט)


Categorized under: 1: Chagim > Asara B'Tevet