From today's Hakhel email:
Special Note Three: Today is the eighth day of Teves, the tragic day upon which the Torah was translated into Greek, the Septuagint, which is marked as a Ta’anis Tzadikim (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 580:2). For further detail on the tragedy of the Septuagint, we refer you to the Sefer HaToda’ah, translated into English as The Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim), by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl.
Tomorrow, the ninth day of Teves is actually also a Ta’anis Tzadikim, for it is the Yahrtzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 13). As a zechus for Ezra Hasofer, one can review the Takanos that Ezra instituted, as described in Bava Kamma 82A.
These two days are then followed by a third Ta’anis, Asara B’Teves, which is observed by all.
The Chasam Sofer in a Drasha that he gave on the eighth day of Teves (approximately 200 years ago) suggests that after the 70-day period of mourning in Egypt ended for Yaakov Avinu, the Bnei Yisroel traveled to Eretz Canaan and eventually buried Yaakov Avinu--on Asara B’Teves. The date of Eisav’s death is then--yes, Asara B’Teves, as well.
There is much to learn from the Chasam Sofer’s conclusion in our observance of Asara B’Teves. After all, Ma'aseh Avos Siman L’Bonim--that which occurred to our forefathers is a sign for future generations. Firstly, Chazal teach us that “Yaakov Avinu Lo Mais.” That is, even though it may appear to us that Yaakov passed away, in fact, he lives on--most certainly so in spirit. We, too, having experienced the devastating blow of the events of Asara B’Teves more than 2,500 years ago have not rolled over and died as scores of other nations have in the meantime. Moreover, what ultimately happened on Asara B’Teves was the death of Eisav. This, the Chasam Sofer writes, is symbolic of Asara B’Teves in the end being turned from a date of sadness to a day of “Sasson V’Simcha”--joy and happiness.
The missing link to bring us to what Asara B’Teves is supposed to be is Teshuva. We all know that this is the shortest fast of the year, so it should be the easiest. That is a gift in and of itself. However long or short the fast is, in order to be meaningful, it must be accompanied by Teshuva. We must do something. We must make a move to revitalize Yaakov, and to once and for all, put Eisav away.
One suggestion may be to take out your Vidui booklet, or other Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur reminder. We especially note that Asara B’Teves is “Asiri Lakodesh”--the next tenth day in a series of ten day periods since Yom Kippur--an especially auspicious day for personal improvement!
One final, but important comment: Rashi explains that when Yosef and Binyamin fell on each other’s necks in last week’s Parsha (Bereishis 45:14), it was to symbolize the destruction of the two Batei Mikdashos, and the Mishkan of Shilo, which were located in their respective territories in Eretz Yisroel. The Avnei Nezer explains that the “necks” symbolize the Bais HaMikdash and the Mishkan, because just as the neck connects the head (which is the resting place of the soul) to the rest of the body, so, too, does the Bais HaMikdash (and the Mishkan) fully and finally connect our physical lives to our spiritual existence. When we yearn for the Bais HaMikdash, we are yearning to connect our corporeal life to the highest spiritual plane it can achieve. By endeavoring to make a brocha (the spiritual) over food (the physical) properly, we demonstrate that we are sincerely preparing for--and awaiting--the day when we truly can connect our bodies to our souls in the most absolute and outstanding way that we can!
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