What is Asara BeTevet? Originally published December 22-23, 2017

With a fast from dawn to dusk on Asara BeTevet, the tenth day of the month of Tevet, we remember the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia in 588 BCE, which ended eighteen months later with the destruction of the First Temple and the city of Jerusalem, and the exile of the Israelites.

This is one of the five daytime-only “minor” fasts in our calendar, complementing the two 25-hour fasts of Yom Kippur and Tish’ah BeAv.  Special service procedures are followed when at least six of the minyan are fasting (including reading a different Torah portion in the morning, and adding a Torah reading in the evening).

Mentioned in Zechariah 8:19, and also in 2 Kings 25:1, this siege came when some Jews were already living in exile in Babylon. 

The “fake news” was abounding, with self-anointed prophets declaring that the Jews would never be exiled from the land of Israel.  The people were complacent, and took the words of those gonnifs at face value.  Jeremiah was warning that the Jews had to comport themselves more appropriately, or doom would befall them, and, the story has it, they did not listen to him.

Apparently Jeremiah was correct.  Meanwhile, Ezekiel heard about the goings-on directly from God and told the people in Babylon of the exile.  We were therefore subsequently exhorted to remember this tragedy, and mark it as a circumstance to teach against:  we should not heed fake news, and should pay attention when someone who knows tells us to behave ourselves.

In Israel and also in many synagogues around the world, it is common to say Kaddish on Asara BeTevet for those whose resting places are unknown.

This was the first of many subsequent tragedies, and is worth remembering with a fast.  This year it is on December 28th.