Three fasts (another three) are connected to each other: the 10th of Tevet, the 17th of Tammuz, and the 9th of Av. The Chochomim could have made the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av, a fast day and left it at that. But, for obvious and less obvious reasons, they wanted Jews to memorialize more than just the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. The Chochomim wanted Jews to memorialize the entire tragic process.
1- 10th of Tevet: Nebuchadnezzar of Bavli began the siege of Yerushalayim.
2- 17th of Tammuz: Eighteen months later, Nebuchadnezzar broke though the walls of the Old City.
3- 9th of Av: Three weeks later, the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed.
THREE FASTS, ONE EVENT
To simply memorialize the day of the destruction of the Bais Mikdash, Tisha B’Av would have been enough. But the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash as a one day event is too short-sighted, too shallow a perspective to understand the actual destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. A child is dying due to a heroin addiction, a parent is dying of lung cancer. Eventually, the child or parent dies and the grieving person will always remember the day of the child or parent’s death. But they will also remember the innumerable painful days and nights that preceded the child or parent’s ultimate demise. i.e. For many tragedies, the final destruction is momentous and meaningful but the destruction that immediately preceded it was only nominally less horrible. The Chochomim want Jews to memorialize and internalize the day of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. But they also want us to memorialize and internalize the entire 1 year, 6 month, and 3 week escalation. A terrible escalation which started on the 10th of Tevet.
BEGINNING OF THE ONE EVENT
The Fast of the 10th of Tevet memorializes Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Yerushalayim but it also commemorates two other events. (Again, another three. Jews like threes. Shacharis, Mincha, Maariv. Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov. Chumash, Nevi’im and Ketuvim. L’havdil, De La Soul were onto something.)
1- On the 10th of Tevet, Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of Yerushalayim.
2- On the 8th of Tevet, 300 years earlier than Nebuchadnezzar, Ptolemy, the King of Egypt, ordered the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek.
3- On the 9th of Tevet, in an unknown year, according to the Shulchan Aruch, “something happened, but we do not know what it was…”. The specific tragedy is unknown.
For many beginnings, even the beginnings of horrible tragedies, we don’t know how or when it started. Even though the beginning is seemingly innocuous or frequently unknown, the Chochomim want us to recognize that there was a beginning and that the beginning is meaningful, that tragedies don’t, so to speak, just happen, that tragedies do not exist in a vacuum and are connected to larger tragedies. And this is especially true for the 10th of Tevet. It is not a coincidence that the 10th of Tevet is referred to as a minor fast and that, due to when the fast falls in the calendar, the fast is relatively short. Even if the beginnings of a soon-to-be-horrible tragedy are less obvious and less dramatic than the actual tragedy that is going to unfold, the beginnings are still extremely meaningful.
10TH OF TEVET
The 10th of Tevet is a day to remember that seemingly innocuous, frequently over-looked events are far from innocuous or meaningless. In some ways, the beginning of a tragedy is just as poignant as the final tragedy itself. So when a Jew minimizes the 10th of Tevet because, so to speak, it’s a minor fast, we must remember that though the 10th of Tevet is not as solemn a day as Tisha B’Av, it is still critical connected to Tisha B’Av. While the day a loved one dies of lung cancer is a more solemn, more painful day than the day that this same loved one smoked their first cigarette, this first cigarette is still extremely meaningful. And, according to the Chochomim, metaphorically, remembering this first cigarette is important.