Tomorrow we will observe the fast of the 10 of Tebet, that reminds us of the beginning of the siege of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). This was the first step that led to the destruction of our Temple, the Bet haMiqdash.
For years, the prophet Yirmiyahu had warned the people about corruption, idolatry, desecration of Shabbat and the abandonment of the Tora. Yirmiyahu made the most serious warning. “If you do not repent,” he told them, “the Bet-haMiqdash will be destroyed.” When Yirmiyahu announced this in the Bet-haMiqdash, the Priests and religious leaders wanted to execute him for blasphemy. How dare a Jew imply that HaShem, Almighty God, would allow His House to be destroyed?
The Yehudim knew that the empire of Nebukhadnetsar, Babylon, was ravaging all the Jewish cities around Yerushalayim. But as Yirmiyahu said, instead of trusting in HaShem and renewing their covenant with Him, they put all their faith in a military treaty they had made with Egypt.
On the 10th of Tebet of 589AEC, Nebukhadnetsar started the siege of Yerushalayim. The situation was very serious because the lack of food, the first natural consequence of a siege, was aggravated by a tremendous drought. People ate dry grass, infested with worms, which caused plague and diseases. Only then, King Tsidqiyahu and the people woke up from their lethargy and decided to do something about it.
All the Jewish leaders met at the Bet haMiqdash and made a “covenant” with HaShem. They said: “We are going to free the Hebrew slaves, and you, please, free us from the captivity of Babylon.” The Hebrew slaves were poor individuals who had become indebted to the aristocracy of Yerushalayim because they could not pay their debts, because of the drought or the war, and now they or their children were paying their debts with slavery. According to the Tora, the seventh year, regardless of whether the debt was or was not paid, the slaves had to be freed. But the Yehudim were not fulfilling this Mitsva and kept the slaves permanently, as did all the other peoples. But now they repented and declared that their slaves are free to go, hoping that HaShem would free them from Nebujadnetsar.
And the miracle happened!
This is what Yirmiyahu tells us in chapter 37, Pasuq 5: “Pharaoh’s army departed from Egypt [to Jerusalem], and when the Babylonians, who were besieging Jerusalem, heard the news about them, they ended the siege of Jerusalem [and went to fight against the Egyptians]. “
YERUSHALAYIM I was celebrating the great miracle! HaShem’s sentence had been canceled! Yirmiyahu’s pessimistic prophecies had not been fulfilled. Yerushalayim was free and saved!
What happened next is hard to believe (or not!).
I will begin by giving my own interpretation of the facts. This is what I believe the Yehudim thought: “We were saved. True! But who saved us from the Babylonians? HaShem? NO! It was our allies, the Egyptians, who saved us. “ And this lack of gratitude to God, this huge mistake of attribution, made them forget HaShem and the covenant they had made with Him.
What did the Jews do? When the Babylonians left Jerusalem, all the slave-owners went after their salves and took them back by force, betraying the covenant they had made a few days ago to HaShem. This events are narrated in chapter 34 of Yirmiyahu, where this episode is presented as the straw that broke the camel’s back…
15 Recently, you repented and did the right thing in My sight: each of you proclaimed freedom to your enslaved brothers. You even made a covenant before Me in the house that bears My name [the Bet haMiqdash]. 16 But now you have repented [from your repentance] and you have profaned My Name: each one of you has recaptured the … men and women he had liberated … and forced them to become their slaves again. 17 Therefore, this is what HaShem says: You have betrayed me; you have not granted freedom to your brothers [as you promised]. And now the sword, the plagues and the famine will be free [to pursue you and reach you] …
Soon, the Egyptians were defeated. And Nebukhadnetsar returned to besiege Yerushalayim for a year and. half. Famine, plagues and death seized Yerushalayim again. The destruction of the Bet haMiqdash was now inevitable.
This is what we will remember tomorrow in the fast of the 10th of Tebet.