Tomorrow, Friday December 22, is the public fast day of Asarah B’Teves – The Tenth day of the Hebrew month of Teves. Our prophets established it as a day of fasting to commemorate a tragic event that took place in our history on this day.

As we are well aware, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the most holy place on earth. It is where our Temple stood, where Avraham was willing to sacrifice his son Yitzchok, and where Yaacov had his prophetic dream. King David purchased this area and lay the foundation for the Temple that would serve as the Palace of G-d in this world. King David’s son, King Solomon, constructed the magnificent First Temple. This Temple was constructed 440 years after the Jews entered the Land of Israel.

The Temple stood for 410 years until it was destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 3338 from creation – 2446 years ago. Prior to its destruction, the Babylonian King Nevuchadnetzar laid siege to Jerusalem for eighteen months. During these eighteen months, the Babylonians shut down all sources of water to Jerusalem and famine set in on the inhabitants. The Babylonians also shot rocks over the fortified walls of Jerusalem. There was some resistance from the Jews, however physical resistance was not enough to stop the enemy.

G-d brought about these events in order to ignite and awaken the Jews towards sincere repentance.  When the message was not heeded, G-d allowed His own Palace to be destroyed and many Jews lost their lives. G-d, in a sense, vented His anger on His own Temple allowing it to be destroyed rather than destroying His people.

Since Nevuchadnetzar’s siege around Jerusalem began on the Tenth day of Teves, and it was the first step in the destruction of the Temple, our prophets established it as a day of fasting.

It is quite unusual for a public fast to be observed on a Friday. A public fast concludes at nightfall. Generally, we are not permitted to eat after our acceptance of Shabbat until we recite Kiddush over a cup of wine. This means that this Friday we will be breaking our fast with the Kiddush which is then followed by the Motzie on Challah.

The great Avudraham, an early Halachic master, says something astounding. Had this fast of Asarah B’Teves been able to fall on a Shabbos (which it cannot), we would have to fast on Shabbos. Mind you, the only fast that we keep on Shabbos is when Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbos. When the mournful fast of Tisha B’Av falls on a Shabbos, the Talmud rules that it is pushed off to Sunday. So why is it that if Asarah B’Teves would fall on Shabbos we would indeed fast?

I recently came across a Chasam Sofer – Rabbi Moshe Sofer o.b.m. – who says that when the prophet describes Nevuchadnetzar’s siege on Jerusalem, the verse does not only state the day of the month it occurred, it uncharacteristically also refers to the day of the week, which was Shabbos.

Let’s bear in mind that Nevuchadnetzar was very skeptical and worried about attacking Jerusalem because he was aware that previously, the general Sancherev had laid a siege on Jerusalem and overnight 180,000 of his troops miraculously died.

Therefore, Nevuchadnetzar chose to lay siege on the Holy day of Shabbos because he was aware that the Jews had become lax in their observance of Shabbos and the Shabbos would not protect them.

Therefore, this fast in particular, would have been observed on Shabbos in order for us to reflect on and strengthen the underlying reason why the siege occurred on that day.

Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, a great rabbi in Israel, has been promoting, for some time, the daily study of the Laws of Shabbos. He said that the observance of Shabbos is the greatest source of protection. He often quotes a lyric from a melodious Shabbos song authored by Ibin Ezra (1100) – Ki Eshmirat Shabbat, Kail Yishmiraini – When we observe the Shabbos, G-d will protect me.

After the October 7th attack, which was on Shabbos and Shemini Atzeres, my wife and I began studying the laws of Shabbos from a fantastic book called, “Learn Shabbos” – in just three minutes a day. It is concise, clear and thorough, and its format is in daily lessons. I highly recommend it.

The fast begins Friday morning at 6:14 a.m. and ends 5:19 p.m. Kiddush, should not be recited before this time. (Times are for the Scranton area)

A quick and apt insight gleaned from the beginning of our Portion. Our portion begins with the tribal head, Yehudah, pleading before his brother Yosef – the viceroy of Egypt – for the release of his brother Biynamin, who was held in jail and it seemed impossible to gain his release. Yet, Yehudah built up the courage to defend Binyamin. The portion begins with the word, “Vayigash.” Included in the meaning of Vayigash is the idea of prayer. Yehudah employed prayer, and the prayer worked, for almost immediately Yosef admitted that he was indeed their brother and Binyanim was released.

Yehudah’s prayer worked because he believed that G-d listens to our prayers.

As we pass the 75th day of our brethren fighting in Gaza, we wonder when and how this will end. We should learn from our namesake, Yehudah, to put our full trust in our prayers to Hashem! May we see a salvation soon!