1. What special themes and teachings will apply to the fast of the tenth of Teves this year? The lessons we have learned in the past certainly apply for all times, and the lesson we learn this year will also apply to other years. Yet there is special emphasis now on the moral lesson we glean for this year.

When Mashiach comes and all the fast days will be suspended, the moral lessons of the fast days will still have didactic importance, for they are the teachings of Torah and “Torah is eternal.” Then, however, only the positive aspects will pertain.

In the days of Mashiach there will be certain novelties.

(A) The world will be refined and all evil will be banished, as the Prophet Zechariah said:

And I will cause the spirit of tumah to depart from the land. (13:2)

The Rambam clarified this concept by telling us:

In that era there will be neither famine nor war, neither jealousy nor strife. (Laws of Kings 12:5)

(B) In the positive realm of doing good deeds there will be a tremendous increase in the light of Torah in the world. As the Rambam continues:

The one preoccupation of the whole world will be to know the L‑rd. Hence Israelites will be very wise...and will attain an understanding of their Creator to the utmost capacity of the human mind, as it is written: “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L‑rd, as the waters cover the sea” (Yeshayahu 11:9). (Ibid.)

This means that just as the sea encompasses all the sea creatures, in an unending manner, so too, does G‑d’s knowledge encompass the human experience. Similarly, will human under-standing encompass the knowledge of G‑d in the days of Mashiach.

This phenomenal change will also be expressed in the observance of the fast days when Mashiach comes.

All the fast days mentioned above are destined to be abolished in the time of the Mashiach. (Rambam, Laws of Fasts 5:19)

The negative aspects will be nullified, and at the same time, the good side will take on new proportions:

Indeed they are destined to be turned into festive days, days of rejoicing and gladness, in accordance with the verse: “Thus says the L‑rd of Hosts: ‘The fast of the fourth month...and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Yehudah joy, and gladness, and cheerful seasons’“; (Ibid.)

These holidays will be extremely festive for they will represent the quality of “light out of darkness” — “joy out of sadness.”

Hence all the teachings of a positive and good nature to be gleaned from the fast days will also apply more strongly in the times of Mashiach.

In discussing the theme of the tenth of Teves we will take into account the common aspect of all fast days and then the specific theme of this day, which will indicate the reason and purpose of the fast day.

How is the common theme of all the fast days expressed?

Scripture tells us:

..call this a fast and an acceptable day unto the L‑rd. (Yeshayahu 58:5)

In Iggeres HaTeshuvah the Alter Rebbe deduces from this, that:

Obviously, an acceptable fast is a “desirable day.”

In other words, the theme of a proper fast day is to make the day a desirable, acceptable day. Certainly all Jews have the “presumption of being qualified” and therefore this will be accomplished.

The aforementioned verse in Yeshayahu also asks a question:

Will such be the fast which I will choose? (Ibid.)

This indicates that the acceptable fast must also be a day which G‑d may choose. This “choice” made by G‑d would reach a higher level than “a day acceptable” to G‑d. For the concept of free choice supersedes desire — in fact, you want something because you made a decisive choice — and not vice versa. Thus, in the case of G‑d’s attributes, His choice will supersede His desire. When we properly observe a fast day it will become a day chosen by G‑d.

The specific theme of the tenth of Teves will be found in the verse:

The king of Babylon has advanced against Yerushalayim on this same day. (Yechezkel 24:2)

This was the beginning of the series of events which later brought all the incidents that precipitated all the other fast days.

This would also explain the opinion of the Avudraham quoted by the Beis Yosef.

If the tenth of Teves would occur on a Shabbos (which is possible when the months are set by lunar sightings), we would not postpone it to the next day because Scripture says specifically, “On this same day,” the same term used in connection with Yom Kippur.

What is the reason for this position? Because this phenomenon, that: “The king of Babylon has advanced against Yerushalayim,” was the first step in the series of ongoing circumstances which eventually led to the calamities for which all the other fasts were established.

Conversely, the tenth of Teves must also comprise loftier aspects and characteristics of a benevolent nature.

In this context all aspects of the fast day will take on positive characteristics. It will be a day of “acceptability,” “chosen by G‑d” and converted to “days of rejoicing and gladness.” In fact, the most troubling negative aspect, that, “the king of Babylon has advanced (‘somach’) against Yerushalayim,” will also be reinterpreted and converted to the good, for the word “somach” has the same root as “somech noflim,” which means “supports the falling.”

In the days of the Holy Temple, representatives were appointed from among the general population to represent the Jewish people in the Temple at the time of offering of the communal sacrifices. These “Men of Maamad” (attendants) had to fast during the week of their appointment. But they were exempt from fasting,

..on Friday, out of respect for the Shabbos...on Sunday, in order not to change over [without a break] from the rest and delight [of the Shabbos] to weariness and fasting. (Mishnah, Taanis ch. 4)

Despite the great importance of those weekly fasts, the “attending men” were not permitted to fast on Sunday — because of a natural limitation — one cannot jump from delight to weariness and fasting without a break.

When, however, the tenth of Teves occurs on Sunday and we dofast, it indicates the intense importance of this fast day.

(A) Since the suffering of the fast is more pronounced, moving directly from Shabbos delight to fasting — clearly the positive side of the fast must be loftier.

(B) It has some similarity with the hypothetical rule that if it occurred on Shabbos we would still fast.

This week’s Torah portion begins with the words: “Yaakov lived in Egypt...” (Bereishis 47:28), which indicates to us that every descent into exile is for the purpose of rising to greater heights. Thus the siege of the Babylon king would metamorphose into a beneficial condition.

Yaakov was able to live and conduct his life in accordance with the “Torah of truth,” while in Egypt, without any compromises. In fact, it can be said that the descent to Egypt was for the purpose of providing Yaakov with the ideal setting for him to live the best years of his life. As the Zohar tells us: “G‑d gave Yaakov 17 additional years of pleasure, delight, enjoyment and satisfaction.”

Thus, the peace and tranquility, which Yaakov had prayed for legitimately came to him, albeit a bit delayed.

When the Tzemach Tzedek was still a child in cheder, he once asked his grandfather, the Alter Rebbe, how it was possible that Yaakov could live his best years in Egypt, the most decadent of all countries. The Alter Rebbe explained the phenomenon in terminology that was comprehensible even to the young child. [Yehudah had gone ahead to establish Torah schools.]

Evidently this lesson, that Yaakov lived his best years in Egypt, is pertinent for everyone. And although the Alter Rebbe brought it down to the level of a child’s understanding, we must say that the truth of the principle pervades all levels of understanding.

The lesson of “Vayechi Yaakov” applies especially in the period of the galus, at the time of the “heels of Mashiach.” The prevalence and power of “Egypt” is all-pervasive now. In fact, all nations of the diaspora are referred to as Egypt:

All the kingdoms are designated by the name of Mitzrayim (Egypt) because they persecute Israel. (Bereishis Rabbah 16:4)

So, “Vayechi Yaakov” brings us an important message for our time. In speaking of Yaakov, Tanya tells us:

His soul...was composed of all the souls of Israel, in all times, (Iggeres HaKodesh 7)

which clearly indicates that the phenomenon that Yaakov dwelt serenely in Egypt really pertains to every Jew.

G‑d did not place us in galus to tire us out. The one and only reason for being in galus is to thereby reach a loftier state. The worse the galus, the greater the heights which may be attained.

Another point; the ascent must come immediately. The cause is here (galus), and the effect must follow forthwith. If Providence causes us to remain another moment in the galus, it is for the purpose of rising yet higher, but at the same time the previous level of redemption must be there. It is nothidden in a sealed box. And despite the fact that it is not revealed wemustwork to make the world see it. The Jew must wipe away the blindness of the world, just as for himself he sees the power revealed both spiritually and physically.

Now, when we fast on the tenth of Teves on the Sunday of “Vayechi Yaakov” we can understand how the negative aspect of the Babylonian siege was there only to lead to the good of positive accomplishments.


The “king of Babylon” symbolizes our situation in the galus; when the siege begins against the walls, it symbolizes the worst situation, the beginning of a series of tragic events. But the true purpose is to reach the good aspect of “raising the fallen” and add strength to Yerushalayim.

The potential for even greater heights is also there, through the Divine service of transforming darkness into light and bitterness to sweetness. For then their sins become like merits, the promise is fulfilled, and the “night will glow like the day.”

The inner quality of the fast day will be evoked and revealed by increasing charity; as it is customary to give more tzedakah on fast days. Tanya explains:

It is written: “Your commandment is very wide” ...refers to the precept of charity, which is truly the mitzvah of the L‑rd, which the Holy One, Blessed be He, Himself in all His majesty, performs at all times by animating the worlds,...in the form of ...charity and gratuitous kindness... (Iggeres HaKodesh 17)

This gives us a very clear message. Everything G‑d does relative to His creations is pure charity — whether in the spiritual worlds of Atzilus, Beriah, etc., or the bestowal of any act of kindness and goodness — in the physical world — every act is gratuitous kindness. For the Holy One, Blessed be He, is not bound or beholden to anyone or anything, and is not forced to give or bestow life. He does so only in a manner of “charity and gratuitous kindness.”

A Jew who gives charity is bound by G‑d’s law to be benevolent, therefore his tzedakah is not pure “charity” — pure charity may be found only by G‑d: “For righteousness is Your’s, L‑rd” (Daniel 9:7).

In discussing the theme of a fast day, we had mentioned that Scripture speaks of G‑d’s choosing and accepting the day of fasting, a case of the exercise of G‑d’s will. This makes the connection between the favorable (chosen) fast day and the mitzvah of tzedakah, which represents G‑d’s Supernal Will and free choice. I will therefore distribute dollars to all those assembled through the “Tankists,” with the understanding that you will contribute a like amount or more to tzedakah.

May it be G‑d’s will that very soon we will merit the realization of the good aspect of the “support of the king of Babylon” which will come about as a result of our Divine service of converting the “darkness” to “light.”

Incorporating the assistance of the former forces of evil in the construction of the Beis HaMikdash will bring it to the lofty degree that:

Yerushalayim shall be inhabited like unwalled towns. (Zechariah 2:8)

In simple terms: may we see the complete and true redemption through our righteous Mashiach.

When we will leave the diaspora with our youth and elders, sons and daughters, taking “their silver and gold with them” (physical and spiritual). Instantaneously, we will be in our Holy Land where: “The eyes of G‑d your L‑rd are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Devarim 11:12).

And we will come to Yerushalayim, the Holy City and to the Holy Mountain and the Holy Temple.

How can we speed things up? By increasing our efforts and accomplishments, especially in the areas designated for the tenth of Teves, study programs for older men and women, Tzivos Hashem groups for children and establishing more “Chabad Houses.”

All of the programs of the “Chabad Houses” must be increased and new “Chabad Houses” should be established, which will help bring closer the establishment of the “houses” of Kohanim, Levi’im and royalty, speedily and truly in our days, through the true and complete redemption by our righteous Mashiach.