Asarah B'Tevet

The Fast of 10th of Tevet

‘And it was in the ninth year of [King Tzidkiyahu’s] reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth (day) of the month, that Nebuchadnetzar, King of Babylon came, he and all his legions, upon Jerusalem…’
– Second Book of Kings (25:1-4)


1) The fast begins at the break of dawn and ends at nightfall.

a) Some people get up before dawn to have an early morning breakfast (but this is only permitted if a decision to do so is verbally expressed the night before).

b) When the fast falls on Friday, most people fast until they drink the wine or grape juice of the Friday night Kiddush at the Shabbat table.

Do’s and Don’ts

1) During the duration of the fast, eating and drinking are prohibited

2) Unlike Yom Kippur and Tisha ba’Av (The Day of Atonement and the Ninth of Av), brushing teeth (no swallowing!), bathing, annointing and wearing leather are permitted.

3) Pregnant and nursing women, and others with health restrictions may be exempt from fasting (please consult your rabbi). Children under the age of bar/bat mitzvah (13 for boys, 12 for girls) are not required to fast.

4) Special prayers are added to the synagogue services:

a) S’lichot (Penitential Prayers) and Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King) are recited during the morning service.
b) At Mincha, the afternoon service, Exodus 32:11, containing the 13 attributes of G-d’s mercy, is read from the Torah.
c) The Aneinu prayer, asking for special forgiveness, is added to the morning and afternoon services by the cantor. An individual who is fasting includes Aneinu in the silent Mincha Amidah.

Historical Significance:

The Second Book of Kings 25:1-4:

‘And it was in the ninth year of [King Tzidkiyahu’s] reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth (day) of the month, that Nebuchadnetzar, King of Babylon came, he and all his legions, upon Jerusalem, and encamped upon it and built forts around it. And the city came under siege till the eleventh year of King Tzidkiyahu. On the ninth of the month [of Av] famine was intense in the city, the people had no bread, and the city was breached.’

      • On the tenth of Tevet, the Babylonians began their siege of Jerusalem.
      • A year and a half later, on the ninth of Av (Tishah Ba’Av), the First Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.

The Tenth of Tevet marks two additional tragedies for the Jewish people:

    • On the 8th of Tevet during the 2nd Beis Hamikdash Talmai (Ptolomy), King of Egypt ordered 72 sages to translate the Torah into Greek, known as the Septuagint.
    • On the 9th of Tevet, Ezra HaSofer (The Scribe), leader of the Jews who returned from Babylonia to Jerusalem at the beginning of the 2nd Beis Hamikdash period, died.

A Friday Fast:

1) It is a general rule that no Rabbinic fast days fall on Friday so that people will not enter Shabbat while fasting. The exception to this rule is the Tenth of Tevet, which may occur on Friday.

2) That this fast may occur on a Friday, demonstrates the seriousness of mourning on the Tenth of Tevet.

a) Even Tisha b’Av, the ninth of Av, on which Jews mourn the destruction of the First and the Second Holy Temple, cannot fall on Friday.

b) The Fast of the Tenth of Tevet is considered more intense since it marked the beginning of the calamities. Had there been no siege, then the walls could not have been breeched (on the 17th of Tammuz), the First Holy Temple would not have been destroyed (on the Ninth of Av), and Gedaliah (the Governor of the Jews) would not have been murdered, causing the remaining Jews to go into exile (the Fast of Gedaliah – 3rd of Tishrei).

An Added Meaning

In Israel, the Tenth of Tevet is also Yom HaKaddish HaKlali, a day on which Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, is recited for people whose date or place of death is unknown, such as the victims of the Holocaust.