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Countdown To Asarah BiTevet – Fasting From Negativity

The Tenth of Tevet is sad enough even before we tack on the eighth and ninth for other reasons. 

We also learned from the Kuzari that “God Prefers Joy.” 

I think we all agree that we have had more than enough sad days over the past nine months. 

So, I’m having difficulty finding ways to make this coming Asarah biTevet meaningful.

My biggest issue is that we have this day marking the siege of Jerusalem less than a week after the conclusion of Chanukah. Do we have difficulty holding onto periods of joy?

The question is one that was asked in a different form of Rabbi Meir of Premishlan as told in Birkhat Chaim, Volume 2: They asked the Holy Rebbe why do we place on the Seder Table Maror to remember allowing the Egyptians to embitter us, Charoset to remember the mortar we used in Egypt to build with bricks , and Matzah to recall the poor meals of those in poverty, yet, we don’t have any symbols of the great wealth with which we left Egypt?

The great Rebbe explained, “Bitterness, hard work and poverty are very much part of our present. It doesn’t take much to recall them. When great wealth becomes just as real for all of us, we’ll add them to the Seder plate as well!”

Perhaps our question, “Do we have difficulty holding onto periods of joy?” Is actually the explanation for Asarah BiTevet coming so soon on the heels of Chanukah; Are we as a community and as individuals having difficulty holding on to our moments of joy?

It seems to me that the most devastating Siege of our community is not external hatred and hostility, nor is it a society so often at conflict with our values. 

The most impenetrable wall laying siege to our living lives of celebration of our relationship with God, of our potential possibilities, of our accomplishments, is the wall made up of bricks of habitual observance, spiritually dulling rote, fear of God without the love and joy. 

As the Ba’al Shem Tov taught, “The sign of authentic awe of God is a life filled with love and happiness.”

Would it be absurd to suggest that when we fast this Tenth of Tevet, we fast from any negativity, all rote, anything that lessens our joy in living a life filled with so much promise?

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