Editor’s note: In response to many requests regarding what we can do about the present crisis in Israel and the world, we felt it appropriate to post a letter written by the Rebbe exactly 27 years ago, addressing precisely this question. The Rebbe makes several suggestions as to how we should utilize the fast day of the 10th of Tevet (this Sunday, December 15) to intensify our spiritual security, which in turn reinforces our material security.
Tevet 10 is observed as a day of fasting, mourning and repentance, in remembrance of the siege of Jerusalem 2,427 years ago. On the 10th of Tevet 3336 (245 BCE), the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar surrounded the walls of Jerusalem. Thirty months later — on Tammuz 9, 3338 — the city walls were breached, and on Av 9th of that year, the Holy Temple was destroyed. The Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia for 70 years.
On this day, we refrain from food and drink from daybreak to nightfall, and add the Selichot and other special supplements to our prayers. (More recently, Tevet 10 was chosen to also serve as a “general kaddish day” for the victims of the Holocaust, many of whom the day of their martyrdom is unknown).
WHAT YOU CAN DO ON THE 10TH OF TEVET
ABOUT THE SITUATION IN ISRAEL
A Letter from the Rebbe – dated 5th of Tevet, 5736-December 9, 1975
~ Free translation (original is printed in Likkutei Sichos vol. 15 p. 555-557) ~
By the Grace of G-d
3rd Day of Week
5th of Teves, 5736
Greeting and Blessing
… In reply to your inquiry and request for instructions in connection with the forthcoming fast of Asoro b’Teves (10th of Teves), in view of the situation in and around Eretz Yisroel — —
You will surely be instructed by the Rabbi of your congregation this coming Shabbos, which is erev Asoro b’Teves, in his sermon, and in practical terms, since the essential thing is the deed.
However, since you have also approached me in this matter, I will set forth, at least, several suggestions – after the following introductory remarks:
Regrettably, there are people who claim that it is necessary to think and act “big,” in terms of global dimensions and stupendous undertakings, etc., etc. Surely they mean well; and to the extent that such resolutions are practical and are actually carried out – they are very helpful to improve the situation.
Yet, we must never overlook – indeed, rather greatly emphasize – the so-called “small and unsophisticated” things which each modest congregation, or even each individual, can and must do – beginning with the old, yet ever-new, Jewish way, collectively as one people and also as individuals. This is the action of hakol kol Yaakov (“the voice is the voice of Jacob”) – Torah and prayer – which G-d himself has shown us to be the first effective action to nullify the power of yedei Eisov (“the hands of Esau”) – in whatever shape or form they are raised against us.
Certainly this should find the fullest expression in a day which the Shulchan Aruch declares to be a Day of Fasting, one to which the prophet Isaiah refers as a “chosen fast … a fast and time favored by G-d.”
Now, in answer to your inquiry, and since the Fast of Asoro b’Teves is especially connected with Eretz Yisroel and the holy city of Jerusalem (recalling the siege of Jerusalem), my suggestion – in addition to the regular “observances” on Fast Days, as set forth at length and in detail in Poskim and in books of Mussar and Chassidus – is as follows:
During this Day – expressly for the sake (zechus) of the security and strengthening of Eretz Yisroel as well as in the Diaspora – and particularly for the benefit of our brethren behind the “Iron Curtain” –
A special effort should be made in the spirit of “Old Israel” – in the areas of Torah, Tefillah (prayer), and Tzedoko (charity),
Specifically: After the prayers (both in the morning and at Mincha) to learn (and where there already are daily study groups, to add) a subject in Torah, including a halacha pesuka (legal ruling),
Immediately following the prayers, even before learning, to say several chapters of Psalms (in addition to the regular portion);
Before and after the prayers – to give charity (in addition to the regular donation), including charity for a sacred cause or institution in Eretz Yisroel, Eretz haChayim (“Land of the Living”).
Needless to say, one who repeats the above again and again in the course of the day, is to be praised,
And each time – the more one adds in these activities (in quantity and quality), is to be praised all the more.
And, as in all matters of Kedusha (Holiness), it is desirable that all the above be done in a group (with at least a Minyan).
May HaShem accept, and He will accept, the prayers and supplications of Jews wherever they are,
And soon, in our very own days, may the Promise be fulfilled that “These days will be transformed into days of rejoicing and gladness,”
With the true and complete Geulah (Redemption) through our righteous Moshiach.
With esteem and blessing
/Signed: Menachem Schneerson/
Addendum to the letter above –
Excerpt from the Talk of Shabbat Parshat Vayigash 5736
~ Free Translation (original is printed in Likkutei Sichos vol. 15 p. 558-559) ~
…In response to the queries of some [people] for more specific instructions regarding the addition in the three pathways of Torah, prayer and charity explained in the letter of the 5th of Tevet:
No details were stated intentionally, based on the directive of our sages that “one should always study Torah in the place where your heart desires.” Similarly prayer, “service of the heart” – depends on the feelings of each person’s heart. And the same is with charity – in the words of the verse: whose heart impels him to give [thus the Rebbe did not specify which additional sections in Torah should be studied, which prayers should be said and what charity should be given, because all these three activities are dependent on the feelings of each individual – ed. note].
Nevertheless, since every inspiration requires details in order for it to be actualized, we can find specific directives based on the words of our Rebbes our Leaders in similar situations and in the words of Sages in general:
The suggestion to add in Torah study: According to the teachings of our Sages that Moses established that the Jews should study the teachings of each respective day – [the suggestion is to] study the Laws of Fasting.
And since the ultimate purpose of a fast day is that it be transformed into joy and gladness and to a holiday – we should (also) study the end of the Laws of Fasting in the Rambam’s Sefer HaYad [Mishne Torah], where he discusses the fulfillment of the promise that the fast days will be transformed to ‘holidays’ and ‘days of joy and gladness.’
Prayer: Based on the directive of the Rebbe my father-in-law [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak] in 5701  to say the three Psalms – 20, 22, 69 – one can say that also in our case the additional prayer should consist of saying these three Psalms.
Even though the present situation is not at all as severe, G-d forbid, as it was then, yet it is still appropriate today to make an additional effort beyond the conventional etc.
Charity: The siege of the walls surrounding Jerusalem began on the 10th of Tevet. Accordingly, based on the words of our Sages “I am your wall – this is Torah” – charity should be given to a Torah organization, and more specifically – (also) to literally help build a ‘wall’ – charity to construct a Torah building (or for the maintenance and repairs of an existing building).
There is a virtue in the charity outside of Eretz Yisroel and a virtue in the charity given for Eretz Yisroel. Its is therefore appropriate to give [the additional charity] both for a Torah organization outside of Eretz Yisroel and for a Torah organization in Eretz Yisroel, which will be rebuilt by our Righteous Moshiach.
To help the present crisis in Israel, each of us should add on the 10th of Tevet (this coming Sunday, December 15) in:
- Study of Torah. Specifically: The laws regarding fasting, including the end of Maimonides Laws of Fasting.
- Prayer. Specifically, the three Psalms, 20 22 and 69.
- Charity. Specifically, to help build [the walls of] a Torah organization (or help in its repairs and maintenance), both inside and outside of Israel.
- The more you add in these three activities the better it is.