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Love and Rebuke

On the 10th of Tevet, which we will mark this coming Thursday, a siege was placed on Jerusalem in the year 588 BCE, the first step in a chain of events that led to the destruction of the first Holy Temple. The 10th of Tevet is one of four fast days that we keep during the year to mark the destruction of the Holy Temple.

In the Tanach, fast days are referred to as “yemei razon,” auspicious days. On these days G-d is especially receptive to our prayers and repentance. We take a temporary break from physical pleasures and place a greater emphasis on spiritual pursuits, reflecting about the cause of our exile and how we can bring about the Redemption. This reflection brings us closer to G-d.

On the other hand, fast days are painful times. For example, on the 10th of Tevet many difficult things happened to us as a people, which eventually culminated in destruction and exile. On each of the fast days we recite a litany of tragedies that befell our people on that day.

These two themes are apparently contradictory: a day of pain and tragedy on the one hand, and on the other hand a day of elevation of spirit which brings us closer to G-d. How can we reconcile these two opposing concepts?

*

When we take a deeper look, though, we realize that actually there is no contradiction. When a father rebukes his child for his wrongdoing, it comes from a place of love. In a similar vein, G-d reproves us as a sign of His love towards us. He sent us into exile as part of a process of purification and refinement, from which we will emerge stronger and better. As the verse in the Prophets states: “The one whom G-d loves—He rebukes.”

The depth of this love is expressed in the prophecy that in the future, G-d will transform these fast days into holidays. After the negative aspects of the day – the suffering and exile – have done their work and brought us to a more elevated spiritual state, then the external covering will be removed and we will see G-d’s love and compassion fully revealed. This in itself is enough to make these days into holidays, which they will be in the future, with the true and complete Redemption.

*

It is 2437 years since the siege on Jerusalem, years during which we have felt the pain of this date, fasted and prayed and been elevated. But we are ready for the conclusion. According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s prophecy, we are at the final stage and ready for the revelation of this day as a holiday.

As long as the Redemption has not been revealed in actuality, we are obligated to follow the Torah’s law and observe these days as fast days, days of mourning. Nevertheless, the feeling has already changed. The closer we get to the Redemption, we shake off a bit of the pain and agony and focus more on the feelings of elevation – which will become stronger and more evident with the complete Redemption.

If, G-d forbid, the Redemption is delayed by a few days, we may have to fast this coming Thursday. Yet we can still enter the week filled with confidence and faith that this week we will merit the great transformation; this week we will celebrate a holiday greater than any other we have ever experienced.

 

 


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