Ten for the Tenth of Teves

Ten points about the Tenth of Teves from an article by Rabbi Berel Wein.

1) The Tenth of Tevet marks the onset of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylonia, and the beginning of the battle that ultimately destroyed Jerusalem.

2) The date of the Tenth of Tevet is recorded for us by the prophet Yechezkel, who himself was already in Babylonia as part of the first group of Jews exiled there by Nebuchadnezzar, 11 years earlier than the actual destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem itself.

3) The Tenth of Tevet is viewed as such a severe and important fast day that it is observed even if it falls on a Friday (erev Shabbat), while our other fast days are so arranged by calendar adjustments as to never fall on a Friday, so as not to interfere with Shabbat preparations.

4) On the eighth of Tevet, King Ptolemy of Egypt forced 70 Jewish scholars to gather and translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Even though the Talmud relates to us that this project was blessed with a miracle

5) The 70 scholars were all placed in separate cubicles and yet they all came up with the same translation

6) The general view of the rabbis of the time towards this project was decidedly negative. The Talmud records that when this translation became public “darkness descended on the world.”

7) The ninth day of Tevet is held to be the day of the death of Ezra the Scribe. This great Jew is comparable even to Moses in the eyes of the Talmud. “If the Torah had not been granted through Moses, it could have been granted to Israel through Ezra.”

8) Ezra led the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile. It was under his direction and inspiration, together with the help of the court Jew, Nechemiah, that the Second Temple was built, albeit originally in a much more modest scale and style than the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple.

9) Since fasting on the eighth, ninth and 10th days of Tevet consecutively would be unreasonable, the events of the eighth and ninth were subsumed into the fast day of the Tenth of Tevet.

10) The rabbinic policy of minimizing days of tragic remembrances played a role in assigning the Holocaust remembrance to the Tenth of Tevet for a large section of the Israeli population.

4 comments on “Ten for the Tenth of Teves


    The Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch (O. Ch. 580) lists additional fast days.

    One of the fast days is on the 9th day in Teves. “It is unknown what
    Tzoroh happened on that day”.

    The ט”×– writes” תימה גדולה (It’s a great wonder) that the Bais Yosef
    doesn’t know what happened that day. In our Selichos (Ezkero Motzok)
    it is written that Ezra Hasofer died on the 9th of the month”.

    It is interesting, this Piyut is said, only by Ashkenazim. The Sefardim
    say the Piyut “Sha’a Elyon” and the Piyut “Yoshev Bashomayim”.
    In both of these Piyutim, it is mentioned that Ezra Hasofer died on the
    10th of Teves.

    The Mechaber, being Sefardi didn’t say the Piyut Ezkero Motzok.
    He said instead the other two Piyutim that states Ezra was niftar
    on the 10th and therefore there shouldn’t be a wonder why he
    didn’t know what happened on the 9th of Teves.


  2. Chana Leah #2: The eighth of Teves, the day on which the translation of the Torah into Greek was completed, was made into a fast day by the early rabbonim due to the evil intent of the Greeks. Their intention in getting a translation of the Torah was not to follow it or to revere it, but to mock and torment the Jews (“That is your precious Torah?”) Even looking at the midrash about this event – that Ptolemy separated the 72 sages, yet a miracle occurred and all 72 translations were exactly identical -tells us that the Greeks were up to no good (because the right way would have been to allow the sages to confer with each other instead of separating them).

    In contrast, our modern-day translations into English, Russian, French, Spanish and other languages by Artscroll are done with good intent, to increase understanding of the Torah among Jews. Non-Jews nowadays use their own translations which generally follow non-Jewish interpretations.

  3. the 8th of Teves is a day of personal significance, so I was especially interested in learning this year about it having been a fast day at one time. The translation of the Torah into Greek was seen as a tragedy because of the belief that much would be lost in translation; that the nuances and true understanding could only be acquired in Lashon Kodesh. What does that say about Artscroll, I wonder? Also the juxtaposition of the nes with the fast is intriguing. Maybe the nes was so that all would acknowledge the emes of Torah, while at the same time the translations were considered to bring darkness?

  4. some searching around the web will find lectures [ rabbi willig i believe amongst others] discussing the mystery of 9 tevet , and its ties to commemorating the jews who separated the practice of the followers of the nazarene from traditional judaism….

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