Today, the tenth of Tevet, is a minor fast day in Judaism. The fast of Tevet is an observance remembering Nebuchadnezzar II’s siege of Jerusalem. The event is recorded in 2 Kings 25: 1-2, “Now in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, camped against it and built a siege wall all around it. So the city was under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.” This siege eventually led to the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 586 BCE. In more recent years, the tenth of Tevet has also become a memorial day for Shoah (Holocaust) victims whose date of death is unknown. It is a General Kaddish Day and memorial candles are lit.
A minor fast includes keeping oneself from food or drink (if they are healthy) from dawn to nightfall. This differs from major fast days, like Yom Kippur, where one restrains from work also and the fast last nightfall to nightfall.
Today, I stand in solidarity with the Jewish people as they keep nourishment from passing through their lips. As I use the day to call to mind Nebuchadnezzar’s siege and those victims of the Shoah with unknown dates of death, I begin to think deeper about what it means to fast. Fasting is a way to remember what has happened. We think about why we are fasting on this day and not tomorrow or yesterday. What is our tradition trying to recall in history. This is the straight forward part of reflection on a fast day. Most people have been told since they were young what they were fasting for on that day, or if they are like me and did not know before, a quick talk with a Rabbi, community member, or even an internet search will clarify what the fast is remembering.
The second and more implicit reflection on a fast day is relating to the event itself. After asking the question of what happened on this day, you move to asking how this happened, why this happened and how does it relate to myself and my community, past, present and future. Answers will be different for different people, and this second type of reflection is an opportunity for learning and growth.
Everyday we should ask ourselves what our relation to the past is, but on fast days it is more of an obligation. We are asked to link what has been done by our ancestors and what we do now. I love the grandeur of connecting my own life to people of a different time and place. Today, I reflect on what it means for me to fast, not yet a Jew, as Jews for centuries before me have fasted on the same day. I think about how are my set intentions similar and different from those before me.
For everyone observing the fast on the tenth of Tevet, I wish you an easy and meaningful fast. May you find something deeper this day as you connect yourself with the generations before and after you.