Today, the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, the Jewish people observe a day of fasting. For on this day, Nebuchadnezzer King of Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem. He beleaguered the city for three years until its walls were finally breached on the 3rd of Tammuz during the third year of the siege.
There are four fast days prescribed by the prophets, to commemorate our grief after the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile of the people of Israel. In chapter 8, the prophet Zechariah refers to these days as "the Fast of the Fourth and the Fast of the Fifth; and the Fast of the Seventh, and the Fast of the Tenth:"
"Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth; and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall become times of joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts to the house of Yehudah, therefore love the truth and peace." (Zech. 8:19)
Regarding today's events, we read:
"And it was in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzer King of Babylon came, he and all his hosts, upon Jerusalem, and he encamped upon it and built forts around it. And the city came under siege till the eleventh year of King Zedikiah. On the ninth of the month famine was intense in the city, the people had no bread, and the city was breached " (II Kings 25).
"And in the fifth month, on the tenth of the month Nebuchadnezzer came and he burned the House of the L-rd, and the King's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem and the entire wall surrounding Jerusalem was destroyed and Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, exiled the remaining multitude " (Jeremiah 52).
Thus, the tenth of Tevet- on which the siege of Jerusalem began, was the beginning of the whole chain of calamities which finally ended with the destruction of the Holy Temple..
The concept of mourning for the Temple has accompanied Israel since the very first day of the destruction. But the main objective of this mourning is to keep the memory of the destruction alive in order to bring about the rebuilding of the Holy Temple at the earliest possible moment. Thus the great sages of Israel stated, "Whoever mourns over Jerusalem-will merit to see her joy" (Ta'anit 30:B).
We are living in a generation when more is being done towards the time of the Holy Temple, then ever before. This would seem enough to give us great cause for consolation and hope. For the first time since the destruction of the Second Temple nearly 2,000 years ago, a golden Menorah suitable for lighting in the Sanctuary has been created. Well over half of the sacred Temple vessels have been created, and have been seen by hundreds of thousands from around the globe; many study daily about the service of the Temple. There are many organizations that work tirelessly to bring about awareness of the Temple's importance. But more important is the fact that more and more people are realizing just how vital the goal of the Holy Temple is for the Jewish people and the entire world. It is not a dream; the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah is nothing less than the secret of that elusive peace which the people of Israel so passionately seek: "In this place shall I grant peace, says the L-rd of Hosts" (Hagai 2:9).
However, in this very same generation that is doing so much towards the Holy Temple, the most basic rights of the Jewish people to her own history are being denied. A red line has been crossed, and a severe desecration of the name of the G-d of Israel is being perpetrated today in Jerusalem. For shamefully, in the State of Israel, the Wakf, the Islamic council, continues to carry out illegal construction underneath the ancient Temple Mount complex, and is in the process of destroying priceless antiquities that are sacred to the Jewish people: remnants not only from the Second Temple period, but even stones dating back to the original Temple of King Solomon. Hundreds of truckloads of dirt, containing holy stones, pottery, and other remnants that are of primary impotance to the Jewish peopple, are being carried off and disposed of as waste in makeshift dumping grounds. Indeed, a red line has been crossed, and we must sound off against it. In any other country, if a synagogue was vandalized, the world would be aghast, and the State of Israel would raise a hue and cry. However, today in Jerusalem, the Moslems, acting with impunity, scatter the stones from the very foundation of the Holy Temple in the dust.
Let us bear in mind the concluding words of yesterday's Haftorah (prophetic reading) which was read by Jews everywhere: "And My Sanctuary shall be with them, and I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people. Then the nations shall know that I the L-rd do sanctify Israel, when My Sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore." (Ezekial 37).
As the sages of Israel so aptly taught, "Every generation that does not rebuild the Holy Temple, is reckoned as the generation that destroyed it."
May our eyes share in Jerusalem's consolation.
Rabbi Chaim Richman