The Tenth of Tevet, a fast day that began Thursday morning, commemorates the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, an event one rabbi sees mirrored in the hateful United Nations vote last week that attempted to isolate Jerusalem from the world. In the spirit of one of the most venerated sages in Jewish history, this rabbi sees the UN vote as proof that the Third Temple will rise again.
On the tenth of Tevet in the year 3336 (425 BCE), the armies of the Babylonian Emperor Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. This began the three-year process that led to the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the Babylonian Exile lasting 70 years. To commemorate the day, Jews observe a day of fasting, mourning, and repentance. The fast begins at sunrise and ends at sunset.
Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf, an award-winning author and teacher for the Yeshiva of the Nations, sees the United Nations General Assembly vote last Thursday as a replay of an event recorded in the Talmud.
“It is fitting that what happened at the UN should happen now, since it was basically an attempt by the enemies of Israel to put Jerusalem under siege, to isolate the city, just as the Babylonians did,” Rabbi Apisdorf told Breaking Israel News. “But the seeds of Messiah were hidden, planted in the destruction of the Temple.”
Rabbi Apisdorf referred to a story in the Talmud in which a group of rabbis, including Rabbi Akiva, one of the most revered scholars in the history of Judaism, went up to the Temple Mount after the destruction of the Temple. The rabbis were dismayed at the scene and performed the mitzvah (commandment) of tearing their clothes upon seeing the destruction. Rabbi Akiva, on the other hand, laughed when he saw a fox, an impure animal, running through the ruins of the Holy of Holies. Rabbi Akiva explained that he had laughed because of two prophecies.
Therefore shall Tzion for your sake be plowed as a field and Yerushalayim shall become heaps and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. Micah 3:12
Rabbi Akiva stated that since the first prophecy had come to pass, as evidenced by the fox running through the ruined Temple, the later prophecies concerning the Temple could now also come to pass.
Thus saith Hashem of hosts: There shall yet old men and old women sit in the broad places of Yerushalayim every man with his staff in his hand for very age. Zechariah 8:4
“This seems like a blow to Israel, but what is really happening is that the world is focused on the relationship of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, and only good things can come out of that,” Rabbi Apisdorf said. “People who can’t handle that are going crazy but people who have been waiting for precisely that are now beginning to unite around Jerusalem.”
An additional reason given for fasting on the Tenth of Tevet is to commemorate when, in the third century, King Ptolemy ordered 72 Jewish elders to translate the Torah into Greek. The translation was completed on the tenth of Tevet.
Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, director of Ohr Chadash Torah Institute, explained why the translation of Torah into Greek is an occasion for fasting, emphasizing that the Greek intention for the translation was not to spread Torah but to degrade it from a divine text into mere literature.
“Since the time of Abraham, who dedicated his life to spreading the knowledge of one God, and from the time of the Prophets who expressed the first universal vision of mankind, spreading the Torah to the whole world is a reason to celebrate,” Rabbi Trugman explained to Breaking Israel News.
Rabbi Trugman emphasized his point by citing Deuteronomy.
As soon as you have crossed the Yarden into the land that Hashem your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones. Coat them with plaster and inscribe upon them all the words of this Teaching. When you cross over to enter the land that Hashem your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as Hashem, the God of your fathers, promised you Deuteronomy 27:2-3
Rabbi Trugman explained that according to midrash (homiletical tradition), the Torah was inscribed on these stones in 70 languages so all the nations of the world could understand and learn, showing that translating the Torah is an imperative for the purpose of teaching the nations.
“But the [Greek translation] was something entirely different,” Rabbi Trugman said. “When they translated the Torah into Greek, the direction of the writing was reversed. Hebrew is written from right to left, the opposite of Greek. For us, the wisdom of the Torah comes from a higher place than human intellect; it flows down from above, which in Jewish tradition is symbolized by going from right to left.”
Rabbi Trugman emphasized that the difference between the Biblically-mandated translation and the Septuagint (the Greek translation) were the very different intentions behind them.
“What the Greeks wanted to do was to reverse that, to turn the Torah into nothing more than literature, a product of human intellect that is not divine, not a product of prophecy,” Rabbi Trugman said.
“In order to rectify this day, we need to learn to ‘translate’ the Torah into a language that the whole world can understand but with the intention that it is divine,” the rabbi continued. “This is an essential part of building the Third Temple in the Messianic era.
“The destruction of the First Temple postponed the dream described by King Solomon when he dedicated the First Temple that it should be a place for all peoples to come together and unify under the banner of One God.”
That destruction, he said, delayed the dream of spreading Torah for a millennium.
“Now is the time that we need to recapture that original vision,” Rabbi Trugman urged.