Religious : : Religious Committee Report

Have you ever heard of the 10th of Tevet as anything other than just a day in the Hebrew calendar? I never had until I “adopted” two children, a brother and sister, who were killed in the Holocaust and was told their yahrzeit date was the 10th of Tevet. (This “adoption” was part of a project of a funeral home in the Detroit area so that Holocaust victims without family would not be forgotten and would have someone to remember them by saying the Mourner’s Kaddish.) It was then I learned that the 10th of Tevet was designated as a “General Kaddish Day” ( by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel) for victims of the Holocaust for whom there was no identifiable yahrzeit date.

Why was the 10th of Tevet chosen as this “General Kaddish Day”? The 10th of Tevet is one of the minor fast days which are observed from before dawn to nightfall. This fast mourns the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia on that date in 588 BCE which ultimately culminated with the destruction of Solomon’s Temple (the First Temple) almost 19 months later on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av) and the conquest of the Kingdom of Judea.

Like Tisha B’Av there were other calamities that occurred throughout Jewish history on the 10th of Tevet and the two days proceeding it. One was that during the 3rd century BCE, a time of Hellenistic rule of Judea during the Second Temple period, Ptolemy, King of Egypt, forced 72 sages to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Although they came up with different versions, they were forced under the threat of death to themselves and their families to come up with a consensus translation. Judaism sees this as a tragedy because only in the original Hebrew could the deeper layers of meaning and mystical ideas be accessed by individuals studying the Torah. The second tragedy around the 10th of Tevet is the death of Ezra, the scribe.

There are a few other interesting facts about the 10th of Tevet. It is the only minor fast day that can coincide with a Friday. This is fairly rare occurring last in 2013 but will occur again in December this year. In this case the fast must still be observed until nightfall even though Shabbat begins before sunset, which requires one to enter Shabbat hungry from the fast which is typically avoided. Although this fast is considered a minor fast, like Yom Kippur, it is the only fast that could take place on Shabbat instead of being deferred to the next day. (This cannot happen, however, under the current arrangement of the Hebrew calendar.) One last interesting fact about the 10th of Tevet is that although it is an annual observance, because of the differences between the Hebrew and secular calendars, there is no 10th of Tevet fast in 2019. We will be observing the “2019” fast this month on January 7 and the “2020” fast on December 25.

While the 10th of Tevet is a minor fast day, as you can see it has some major significance in our Jewish history. I hope you will, as I will, think of the Holocaust victims for whom there is no actual yahrzeit date known and whose lives we remember on this day.

Sandy Shapiro and Arnold Miller, Co-Chairs