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Siege of Jerusalem

Siege of Jerusalem

The Tenth of Tevet marks Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem 2,500 years ago. What is the message for us today?


In Jewish consciousness, a fast day is a time of reckoning, a time to correct a previous mistake. What happened on the Tenth of Tevet that we have to correct?

On the Tenth of Tevet, 2,500 years ago, Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Jerusalem. Actually, there was little damage on that first day and no Jews were killed. So why is this day so tragic? Because the siege was a message, to get the Jewish people to wake up and fix their problems. They failed, and the siege led to the destruction of the King Solomon's Temple.

Today we are also under siege. Much of the Jewish world is ignorant of our precious heritage. Children whose Jewish education ended at age 13 now carry that perception through adulthood. The results are catastrophic: assimilation in the diaspora, and a blurring of our national goals in Israel.

The siege was a message to the Jewish people to wake up and fix their problems.

So what's the message for us? Wake up and understand. What does the Almighty want? If there's a siege, hear the message now. Don't wait for the destruction.

If the Jewish problem today is a lack of appreciation of our heritage, then the solution is clear: increased love of Torah, love of Jews, and love of Israel and Jerusalem. The Almighty is telling us: The siege will not be lifted until you correct the mistake.

Responsibility To Teach

The Talmud speaks about two sages concerned over the threat of Torah being forgotten by the Jewish people. As a precaution, Rav Chiyah captured a deer, slaughtered it, and gave the meat to orphans. Then he tanned the hides and wrote five separate scrolls, one for each of the Five Books of Moses. He took five children, and taught each of them one book. He then took six more children, and taught each of them one of the six orders of Mishnah, the oral law.

Then he told each of the 11 children: Teach what you've learned to each other. With this, the Talmud says, Rav Chiyah ensured that the Torah would never be forgotten by the Jewish people.

This raises a question: 11 children is a pretty small class. Why didn't Rav Chiyah simply teach all the children all the books? Why did he teach each child only one book?

The answer is that the children having to teach each other was essential to the process. To ensure that Torah should not be forgotten, you have to teach what you've learned to others. That's the secret. You've got an obligation to your fellow Jews. If you know something -- teach it.

To ensure that Torah is not forgotten, teach what you've learned to others.

Realize that the most destructive, painful, contagious disease of all is ignorance. Ignorance leads to wasted lives and untold suffering.

So if you know the key to happiness, teach it. Do you see human beings walking around depressed, half dead? Give them some joy. If you have the ability, you must help. Otherwise you'll always bear the knowledge of what you "could have done."

This is not about "forcing your opinion" on others. No. A good teacher conveys information that allows the student to get in touch with what he already knows -- and re-discover it on his own. Get others to see and understand it on their own terms.

Don't sell yourself short. You have the ability to make a dramatic impact on others. You don't have to be a U.S. Senator to make a difference. With one piece of wisdom you can help humanity.

Soviet System

The director of Aish HaTorah's Russian Program is Rabbi Eliyahu Essas, a former refusenik from the Soviet Union. He lived there at a time when it was totally illegal to study Torah. Consequently, Rabbi Essas had nobody to teach him, and at the time, he didn't know how to even read Aleph-Bet. So he got a hold of some underground books, hid out from the KGB, and began to teach himself Torah.

After awhile, word got out that Rabbi Essas knew Torah, and people started coming to study in secret. But of 5 million Soviet Jews, Rabbi Essas was one of the few teaching Torah. So you can imagine that his time was in great demand. That's why Rabbi Essas made a rule: "Before I begin teaching you, you must agree to teach over what you've learned to others." In this way, Rabbi Essas was able to multiply his effect.

Before I teach you, you must agree to teach over what you've learned to others.

Although we don't live under an oppressive Soviet regime, the concept still applies to us as well. You learned something precious? Say to yourself: "That was fascinating. How did it change me? What did it teach me about living? Now how can I transfer this insight to others?"

Don't forget: Teaching benefits you as well. Until you share an idea, it's not yours. It remains but a hazy notion in your imagination. Having to explain an idea to others forces you to clarify it for yourself. You've taken it out of potential and made it a reality.

When you teach someone, make sure they understand how important it is to teach it over to someone else. If they do, then that's part of your success as a teacher. That's ensuring that Torah would never be forgotten by the Jewish people.

One Nation

There's one more lesson to be learned from the story of Rav Chiyah. By teaching the 11 children only one book each, these children knew they had to learn from one another. The Jewish people are one and we're all in this together. Every person is worthy of profound respect, regardless of their beliefs and level of observance, and there is something to be learned from everyone.

We live in serious times. Whether it's assimilation in America, or international forces pressing our holy city of Jerusalem, the message is essentially the same: The siege is on and the clock is ticking. We have to communicate the Torah message to our people. It is a matter of utmost national urgency.

We who believe in the power of Torah and the eternal mission of the Jewish people are required to act.

Who is responsible? We who believe in the power of Torah and the eternal mission of the Jewish people are required to act. To teach wisdom and be a "Light Unto the Nations."

On the Tenth of Tevet, when Nebuchadnezzar surrounded the city of Jerusalem, we did not get the message. Will we get the message now? Will we change? Will we wake up to reality?

You've got to care. If you don't make the effort, you don't care enough. You have powers. Are you going to use them?

We must get the message. Before the destruction. Now is the time.

Published: December 30, 2000

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Visitor Comments: 48

(48) ray, December 12, 2013 5:11 PM

you must become a good teacher b4 u can teach

if every medical student started teaching medicine it would be a disaster. it's important to teach but it's also important to build yourself up. many people even the religious lack the basics - such as bitachon which is the foundation of everything. see for example the Chovos Halevavos Gate of Trust. there's an online one with commentaries which is very powerful.

(47) Daniel, December 11, 2013 5:21 PM

Correcting Jerusalem's Seige

Hashem requires the Jewish people be a priestly people and to be a light in the world. I believe this pretty much sums it up.

(46) winnie, January 21, 2012 12:14 AM

long live the heritage of the Jews. Long live israel

(45) Anonymous, January 5, 2012 5:48 AM

Action speaks louder than words. The best way to be a teacher, is by your actions, the way you live your life. A few months back someone asked me why I'm not teaching married women to love their husbands anymore. I was stun, because I don't remember teaching married women this. It must of been my actions that I was teaching married women this. I re-examine my actions, because it was brought to my attention because of the need for this teaching again. The teaching through action that inspires married women to love their husbands. By the way, I have been single for years, even at the time they had said I was teaching women this. When a need arises, they do look to us to teach them. Once again, action speaks louder than words. I could ditch this and say, I'm single who cares if married women love their husbands, however, that wouldn't be teaching Torah, when asked to teach it.

(44) Daniel, January 4, 2012 7:45 PM

Ruth, at least the deer wasn't hunted

Shalom Ruth, You are right to be concerned about the feelings of the deer. When I read "deer" I first was alarmed, then realized the animal wasn't hunted, but actually caught alive and then slaughtered acc. to kosher shechita rules, as painlessly as possible, not in sight of other deer, etc. It is quite hard to catch a deer alive. They are fast, strong and agile. Rav Chiya went through great pains to ensure that he did it the right way, the more difficult but more merciful way, rather than simply shoot the deer as most Americans, native or not, would do, as well as other hunting peoples. Both the Native American tradition and the Jewish and Islamic traditions stress appreciation of the animal as a gift of G-d. Jewish and Islamic traditions, as they oppose hunting unless necessary, adds an element of consideration of the feelings of the animal. Judaism also forbids hunting in order to discourage a festive atmosphere around the killing of an animal - Greco-Roman hunting parties were a lot like what we still see in the West today: there is a certain festivity and enjoyment in the kill that the Rabbis z"l saw as a form of unjustifiable bloodthirstiness. Recreational hunting is therefore forbidden entirely.

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