The rabbis compare the early history of Israel to the phases
of the moon (Exodus Rabbah 15:26):
"The moon on the first of [the month] begins
to give light, growing larger, giving more and more light until the 15th of
the month when the moon is full. From the 15th to the 30th of the month, the
moon's light becomes smaller and smaller, until the moon disappears altogether
on the 30th. Such were the generations [of Israel]: From Avraham until Shlomo
(Solomon) the light grew and grew [fifteen generations: Avraham, Yizhak, Yaakov,
Yehuda, Peretz, Hazron, Ram, Avinadav, Nahshon, Shalmon, Boaz, Oved, Yishai,
David, Shlomo]; during the days of Shlomo the moon was full.... During the
time of Zedekiah (who was blinded by the Babylonians), the light of the moon
was so diminished that it was no longer seen at all."
The Babylonian exile during the days of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah,
is seen as the darkest of all days. The tenth of Tevet (Asarah b'Tevet)
marks the beginning of the last days of the kingdom of Judah.
* * *
The rising Babylonian power during the late 7th century BCE
warred constantly with Egypt, and the small state of Judah was caught between
the two. When the kingdom of Judah (under King Jehoiachin) joined forces with
Egypt around the year 600 BCE, in an attempt to repulse the Babylonians, Nebuhadnezzar
king of Babylonia besieged Jerusalem, and some years later exiled thousands
of Judeans (597 BCE).
A puppet king, Zedekiah, was placed on the Judean throne by Nebuhadnezzar to
replace Jehoiachin. When he, too, joined forces with Egypt in a rebellion against
Babylonia, Nebuhadnezzar besieged Jerusalem once again. On the tenth of Tevet,
588 BCE, Nebuhadnezzar began the final seige against Jerusalem (II Kings 25:1),
which culminated in the destruction of the Temple, devastation and exile. King
Zedekiah, fleeing from the Babylonians, was eventually caught, blinded, and
led in chains to Babylonia (II Kings 25:7).
The tenth of Tevet was later designated as one of the four fasts recalling the
destruction of the Temples. In modern times, the Israel chief rabbinate has
named the day as General Qaddish day (Yom ha-Qaddish ha-Kelali) in memory
of the millions of Jewish victims of the Holocaust whose exact date of death
is unknown. The major commemoration of the Holocaust, Yom Hashoah, is observed
on the 27th of Nisan.
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