Asarah B’Teves

This Wednesday we observe the fast of Asarah B’Teves, commemorating the day on which the Babylonians began their siege of Jerusalem during the First Temple period. This event marked the beginning of the end of the most glorious era in Jewish history, and led to the destruction of the Temple.
The fasts of Asarah B’Teves, Tzom Gedaliah, Shivah Asar B’Tammuz, and Tishah B’Av serve to arouse us to reflect on the great downfall we experienced when the Temple was destroyed. The Maggid’s commentary on Lamentations (Eichah), available in English translation in my book Voice of Weepers, brings out the various facets of this tragedy in a profound way. On the Voice of Weepers page of this site, I have posted two excerpts from this commentary. I highly recommend them for reading as a way to appreciate the significance of the upcoming fast day.
The following are some major themes that run through the commentary.
1. The Temple was the hub of our spiritual life. When it was destroyed, we suffered a enormous blow. The Jewish People, it its current state, is but a shadow of its former self.
2. The relationship God has with us is like the relationship between a father and a son. When we stray from the proper path, God must chastise us with afflictions. The afflictions are an act of love, designed to lead us to the ultimate good. We must recognize this fact and accept the afflictions. We must also understand that it causes God great pain to bring us suffering. In the midst of our own suffering, we should strive to feel God’s pain as well.
In his commentary on Lamentations 2:5, the Maggid describes how the destruction of the Temple brought with it the lost of the Torah system of governance, headed up by the Prophets, the Kohanim, and the Sanhedrin. The Maggid elaborates on the gravity of this loss in his commentary on the Book of Esther. The eleventh berachah of the daily Amidah (the berachah Hashivah Shofteinu) expresses a plea for the return of this system of governance:
Return our judges as at first and our counselors as at the beginning, and remove from us sorrow and groaning. And reign over us–You, O Hashem, alone–with kindness and compassion, and imbue us with righteousness through law. Blessed are You, Hashem, the King Who loves law and justice.
In our times, with the Land of Israel run by leaders opposed to Torah values, we can readily feel the sorrow and groaning. Let us pray for the restoration of our former glory, in all its aspects.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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