In the chronology of sad events of the Jewish history 10th of Tevet comes first. It is followed by 17th of Tammuz and the Fast of Gedaliah.
In 3336 year of the Jewish calendar (424 BC) on the 10th of Tevet began the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The siege was long and hard and ended with the capture of the city and its destruction. The Temple was ruined and burned down; the Jews were exiled from Jerusalem.
The sages of that time decided this day will be a day of prayer, fasting and mourning for the future generations.
In the Jewish tradition historical events always have a spiritual, mystical or religious meaning background. Following explanation of reasons of the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple is given in the Book of Kings.
When the Jews came to Israel, God has given them one ultimate condition: “Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you’’ Leviticus 20:22-23
Of the twenty two generations of Jews who lived in Israel before the destruction of the first Temple only a few observed divine laws and commandments. Both common people and clergy have adopted pagan customs of the peoples who lived around them. The country was filled with idols and cult of statues and trees was worshiped. In order to get people back on the right path, to the Torah path, God sent his prophets, but the prophets had cried out to the children of Israel in vain…And God became angry with his people and therefore punished them for deviating from the divine laws.
So, the 10th of Tevet is a day to remember the destroyed Temple, a day to recall the grandeur and beauty of Jerusalem. But not only grief is the main content of this day, as 10th of Tevet is also a day of repentance and correction of wrong actions, so the Jews were able tto witness the reburn of their glorious city.
Another sad event happened on this date. This time it’s indirectly related to the destruction of the Jewish Kingdom. On this day the translation of the Torah to Greek language was completed. In the religious tradition this event is compared to the creation of the Golden Calf. It is believed that the Torah cannot be translated into another language without distorting its meaning.
Amazing thing was that when Ptolemy II asked 72 Jewish sages to translate the Torah into Greek, all 72 copies came out identical. These translations have allowed many peoples of the world to read the Torah.
However, the rabbis decided that the translation could not be compared with the original, as they didn’t like the idea of misinterpretation of the Holy Book.
After creating the state of Israel, 10th of Tevet got additional meaning. The chief Rabbinate of Israel declared this day as a universal Day of Remembrance. It is a day to remember Holocaust victims, people, who’s day of death is unknown and all those for whom no one had read a memorial prayer.
Therefore, during prayers for the 10th of Tevet it is decided to light a memorial candle and say a memorial prayer.