shivah asar betammuz

Tenth of Tevet

Tenth of Tevet (עשרה בטבת, Asara BeTevet), the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, is a minor fast day in Judaism. It falls out either seven or eight days after the conclusion of Hannukah, depending on whether Rosh Chodesh of Tevet that year is observed for one day or two. The Tenth of Tevet commemorates the onset of the siege that Nebuchadrezzar of Babylonia laid to ancient Jerusalem, an event that ultimately led to the destruction of Solomon's Temple (the First Temple) and Babylonia's conquest of southern Israel's Kingdom of Judah.


The text in II Kings (25:1-4) tells us that on the 10th day of the 10th month (which is Tevet when counting from Nisan, the "first month" in the Tanach), in the ninth year of his reign, (588 BCE), Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem. Three years later, on the ninth of Tammuz, he broke through the city walls. The siege ended with the destruction of the Temple four weeks later, on the 9th of Av, the end of the first Kingdoms and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon. The Tenth of Tevet can thus be considered part of the cycle of fasts connected with these events, which also includes: Tzom Gedaliah (3rd of Tishrei); Shivah Asar B'Tammuz (17th of Tammuz) and Tisha B'Av (9th of Av). The first mention of the Tenth of Tevet as a fast appears in Zechariah (8:19) where it is called the "fast of the tenth month" (Tevet). Other references to the fast and the affliction can be found in Ezekiel 24:1-2 (the siege) and Jeremiah 52:4-6.

According to tradition, as described by the liturgy for the day's selichot, the fast also commemorates other ignominious events that occurred throughout Jewish history on the tenth of Tevet and the two days preceding it:

  • On the eighth of Tevet one year during the 200s BCE, a time of Hellenistic rule of Judea during the Second Temple period, Ptolemy, King of Egypt, ordered production of the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Various rabbinical sources see this event as a great tragedy, a debasement of the divine nature of the Torah, and a subversion of its spiritual qualities. Other ancient sources, such as Philo, consider it a miraculous achievement, a cause for jubilation rather than mourning. Philo in fact suggests that the day was marked by celebration.
  • Ezra the Scribe, the great leader who brought the Jews back to the holy land from the Babylonian exile and who ushered in the era of the Second Temple, died on the ninth of Tevet.


As with all minor Jewish fast days, the Tenth of Tevet begins at dawn (alot ha-shahar) and concludes at nightfall (tzeit hakochavim). In accordance with the general rules of minor fasts as set forth in the Code of Jewish Law, and in contrast to Tisha B'Av, there are no additional physical constraints beyond fasting (such as the prohibitions against bathing or of wearing leather shoes). Because it is a minor fast day, Halacha exempts from fasting those who are ill, even if their illnesses are not life threatening, and pregnant and nursing women who find fasting difficult.

A Torah reading, a special prayer in the Amidah (Aneinu), and (in many communities) the Avinu Malkeinu prayer are added at both Shacharit and Mincha services (unless the fast falls on Friday, when Tachanun and Avinu Malkeinu are not said at Mincha). At Shacharit services, the Selichot are also said, and at Mincha, the Haftarah is read.

The fast can occur on a Friday resulting in the unusual event of a Torah and Haftorah reading at the Mincha service right before Shabbat. This is a fairly rare occurrence. The last two times this happened were on 20 December1996 and 5 January2001; the next time will be on 17 December2010.

Although this fast is considered a minor fast, it has an additional stringency not shared by any other fast except Yom Kippur, namely that if the Tenth of Tevet were to fall out on a Shabbat, then this fast would actually be observed on Shabbat. This is because of the phrase עצם היום הזה ("the very day") that appears in Ezekiel 24:2, similar to the phrase בעצם היום הזה describing Yom Kippur in Leviticus 23:28. However under the current calendrical scheme, the Tenth of Tevet cannot fall out on Shabbat.

A few have chosen to observe the Tenth of Tevet as a "general kaddish day" for the victims of the Holocaust, many of whom lack identifiable yahrtzeits (anniversaries of their deaths).

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