3 Days in Tevet: Breaching the Walls of Jerusalem


Three Days in Tevet: The 10th: Breaching the Walls of Jerusalem

The Month of Tevet: A Cycle of Temple Consciousness


The Divine sequence of the Hebrew calendar presents a wondrous opportunity for spiritual growth, if we would but hear the call. The Holy One, blessed be He, literally beckons to us through the very days of our lives, as the verse alludes: "He stands behind our wall, observing through the windows, peering through the lattices" (Song of Songs 2:9). The progression of our observances constantly reminds us that the timeless message each holiday imparts to us is just as vital in our own time as ever.

Chanukah, which was recently celebrated, is the only holiday that begins in one month and continues into the next. Chanukah begins on the 25th day of Kislev and continues into this present month of Tevet. This Hebrew month of Tevet may initially appear somewhat perplexing or contradictory. One the one hand it is associated with a certain degree of anguish: it was during this month that the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, in the time of the First Temple, lay siege around the walls of Jerusalem. Indeed, we observe a fast day on the Tenth of Tevet, the day this siege began. The siege lasted for three years, until the city was finally breached during the month of Tammuz, leading to the Temple's destruction.

But in contrast, Tevet begins right smack in the middle of Chanukah - the holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple! And we know that the beginning of a month contains the core of its energy and expresses its true essence! What an ironic seesaw! From Temple joy and celebration, to mourning for destruction, in the same month? What extremes!

This timing is not mere coincidence... the very structure of the calendar itself expresses profound spiritual lessons. Our consciousness is never disconnected from the Temple. Chanukah, the time of our miraculous victory over the forces of the Greek empire that defiled the Temple, is a time when we really feel the light of G-d's protective presence in our lives, helping us to stand against all adversity. But we know that G-d only makes miracles happen for those who are willing to take a stand for Him... once we have made the first move. We carry that lesson from Kislev into Tevet... and although this is the month which ultimately saw the beginning of the process that lead to the destruction of the First Temple, still, this very month of destruction began with the pure light of Chanukah... and some of that illumination remains with us, guiding us throughout this month.

What a beautiful example of G-d's compassion! Even this time of Tevet began with the remaining days of Chanukah, instilling this month with the hope of redemption and reminding us that nothing can stop the people of Israel from fulfilling their Divinely-appointed destiny.

At the time of Chanukah, when the enemy entered the Holy Temple and defiled it, the invaders also broke breaches in the soreg, the fence around the Holy Temple. They made these breaches in order to humiliate the Jews, and to show their contempt for the G-d of Israel whose Divine Presence rests within.

When the Chashmonean kohanim succeeded in driving the Greeks out and purifying the Temple, the sages of that generation chose not to close and repair these breaches, but rather, to leave them open. They made an edict that called for the pilgrims who arrived at the Holy Temple to prostrate themselves in front of these breaches towards the Holy of Holies, in order to commemorate the miracle of the Chashomean victory and to give thanks to the Almighty for delivering His people.

Earlier in history, on the tenth day of Tevet, the siege around Jerusalem began, and as mentioned above, this eventually led to a breach in the city walls and ultimately, to the destruction of the Holy Temple. The people of Israel are constantly confronting these forces of opposition. Then as now, there are always those who seek to surround Jerusalem, to lay siege to our land and our lives, to hold the people of Israel hostage... to break breaches in our consciousness and sever our connection to our Torah, our Land, and our G-d. But we continue to prostrate ourselves in thanksgiving in front of these very breaches, recognizing that the hand of the Almighty is upon us and giving Him thanks: "For G-d will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His heritage" (Psalms 94:14).

Indeed, we believe that our lives are still full of miracles - and that G-d still expects us to take the first step to make these miracles happen. Thus we continue to stand up against those who would seek to diminish the Divine light in this world. By working towards the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in our time and the resting of the Divine Presence, we works towards a future of hope, peace and prosperity for all mankind.

The eighth, ninth and tenth days of the month of Tevet are each considered dark days in the history of Israel. At one time each of the three days was observed by a fast. Today we fast only on the tenth. What happened on these three days?

Learn about the translation of the Hebrew Torah into Greek, known as the Septuagint, which occurred on the 8th of Tevet.

The 9th of Tevet marks the passing of Ezra and Nechemiah who led the Jews exiled in Babylon back to Jerusalem. Learn more about their crucial role in Israel's history.