The Tenth of Tevet
(Yom Ha-Kaddish Ha-Kelali)
The Tenth of Tevet (Heb, Asara b'Tevet) marks the day on which the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem began in the year 588 BCE, an event which eventually led to the destruction on the Temple in 586 BCE and the first exile from Israel. Though the day usually falls out near the time of Hanukkah, the two holidays have no significant relationship with each other. The Tenth of Tevet is considered a "minor fast" and orthodox Jews refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset on the day of fasting.
In Israel, the Tenth of Tevet has also come to be marked as a memorial day for the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The kaddish (Prayer for the deceased) is recited on this day for people whose date or place of
death during the Holocaust is unknown and that is how the date has gotten the unofficial Hebrew moniker, Yom Ha-kaddish ha-kleli, literally translated as The General Kaddish Day.
And it was in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth (day) of the
month, that Nebuchadnetzar, King of Babylon came, he and all his hosts, upon Yerushalayim,
and he encamped upon it and built forts around it. And the city came under siege till the
eleventh year of King Tzidkiyahu. On the ninth of the month famine was intense in the
city, the people bad no bread, and the city was breached (Second Melachim 25).
We see then, that the tenth of Tevet on which the siege of
Yerushalayim began, was the beginning of the whole chain of calamities which finally ended
with the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.
The Purpose of Fasting
'The essential significance of the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, as well as that of the
other fast days, is not primarily the grief and mourning which they evoke. Their aim is
rather to awaken the hearts towards repentance; to recall to us, both the evil deeds of
our fathers, and our own evil deeds, which caused anguish to befall both them and us and
thereby to cause us to return towards the good. As it is said: And they shall confess
their transgressions and the transgressions of their fathers. (Vayikra 26. Rambam Hilchot
Ta'anit Chapter 5). The aim of fasting, therefore, is to subjugate our evil inclination by
restriction of pleasure; to open our hearts and stir us to repentance and good deeds
through which the gates of Divine mercy might be opened for us.
Therefore, each person is obligated to examine his deeds and to repent during these
days. As it is written of the people of Ninveh: And the Lord saw their actions (Yonah 3)
. . upon which the Rabbis say: It is not said, He saw their sackcloth and fasting, but
rather their actions (Ta'anit 22). We see hence that the purpose of fasting is
'Therefore, the people, who fast but engage in pointless activities, grasp what is of
secondary importance and miss what is essential. Nevertheless, repentance alone without
fasting is also insufficient. There is a positive commandment of Rabbinic origin to fast
on his day.
The Observance of the Fast
If a public fast falls on Shabbat, it is delayed until after Shabbat since fasting is not permitted on Shabbat. The one exception is Yom Kippur, which based on a verse in the
Torah is observed even if it falls on Shabbat. The Geonim also write that the same was
once true of the tenth of Tevet, since it is written of the tenth of Tevet: On this very
day (YehezkeI 2). In our calendar calculation, however, the tenth of Tevet can never fall
It a public fast occurs on Erev Shabbat we fast the entire day till the conclusion of
the fast, even though it means entering Shabbat while fasting. Nowadays our calendar
calculation is such that the only public fast, which can fall on Erev Shabat, is the tenth
Source: Orthodox Union.