The general rule of Jewish fast days is that they cannot occur on Friday. This rule is meant to protect the joy and happiness of Shabbat, for the sages felt that entering Shabbat hungry after a full day of fasting might diminish the joy and happiness of the holy day.

The Tenth of Tevet, however, is the exception to this rule. The “Fast of the Tenth” as it is referred to in the Talmud (Rosh Hashana 18b) marks the date when the Babylonians began their siege of Jerusalem. It is one of the four annual fasts that relate to the Temples’ destruction. The 17th of Tammuz marks the date on which the walls of the city were breeched. The Ninth of Av (Tisha b’Av) is the day of mourning for the destruction of both Temples. The Third of Tishrei commemorates the murder of Gedaliah, the governor of Judea, after the destruction of the first Temple, which led to the final expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem. 

What is so significant about the beginning of the siege that commemorating it merits affecting Shabbat? 

It could be cogently argued that the beginning of the Babylonian siege, the Tenth of Tevet, was actually the most tragic day of all. As the Babylonians grew in power far to the east, the Jews were warned that the time to mend their ways was at hand. As the Babylonians marched toward Judea, Jeremiah, the great prophet, tried desperately to get the Jews to heed his call. Even as the Babylonians encamped outside the gates, Jeremiah cried out for the people to repent.

Without question the ultimate tragedy was the destruction of the Temple. That destruction, however, was the culmination of a history of missed opportunities that began when the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem on the Tenth of Tevet.

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