The 10th of Tevet, is one of the fasts which the Jews participate in every year.
On the 10th of Tevet of the year 3336 from Creation, the armies of the Babylonian head Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem (Rosh Hashana 18b). Only 30 months later -- on Tammuz 9th, 3338 -- the city walls were breached, and on Av 9th of that year, the Holy Temple was destroyed (a reason why we fast later on in the 9th AV).
The Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia for a seventy year spell. In fact the Jews were primarily punished in exile for 70 years, because as the Beit Hamikdash had been standing during the First Temple period; they had failed to keep and observe 70 years of shmittah (one out of every seven years, allowing the land to lay without working on it) properly.
The First Temple was destroyed due to the Jews failing to keep to the laws of ‘man to G-d.’ Idolatry had become one of the major transgressions during the time of the First Temple era, after the death of King Shlomo, soon after the tribes of Yehudah and Benjamin stayed in Jerusalem while the other 10 tribes rebelled and relocated. As this happened both sides had many King’s over many years.
In fact the significance of this day is built up from the 8th of Tevet, that was a day in which Ptolomy, ordered the Rabbi's to translate the Torah into Greek (Megilla 9), 72 Rabbi's were placed in different rooms, to translate the Torah, miraculously each of the sages made 13 identical changes to the Torah when translating it into the Greek language, since if it was to be translated word to word accurately, as some of these words could have offended the Greek's, they could have caused huge problem for the Jews if it was translated totally literally. However despite this miracle, the Medrash relates that a huge cloud of darkness fell up on the world. Megillat Taanit actually states, 'On the 8th of Tevet, the Torah was rendered into Greek during the days of King Ptolemy, and darkness descended upon the world for three days.' To what may the matter be likened? To a lion captured and imprisoned. Before his imprisonment, all feared him and fled from his presence. Then, all came to gaze at him and said, 'Where is this one's strength?' Likewise the Torah, as long as the Torah was in Hebrew and was interpreted by the Sages, it caused reverence, and many feared to cast doubt upon it. Even the non-Jews, who desired to study the Torah, had no contact with the Torah until he or she had acquired a knowledge of the Holy tongue and the prescribed ways for understanding the Torah.
Once the Torah was translated to Greek, it was as if the Torah were divested of reverence. Whoever wished to, could now look at the Torah. Anyone who wanted to find fault with its words, could now do so, based on the translation. The Sages, therefore, likened the event of this day, to the day on which the Golden Calf was made.
The 9th of Tevet is a very sad day as it marks the death of the two great leaders Ezra and Nehemia, they led the Jews in different intervals back to Jerusalem during the start of the Second Temple era, in fact the time period of thier passing, was the same period when prophecy had been withdrawn from the world, as the men of the great assembly prayed for the abolition of idolatry, in turn it resulted also in the loss of prophecy, Malachi being the last of the prophets.
The 10th of Tevet, is observed as a day of fasting, morning and repentance. We refrain from food and drink from daybreak to nightfall, which this is in fact the shortest fast which we have and we add the Selichot and other special supplements to our prayers. More recently also, The 10th of Tevet was selected to also serve as a "general kaddish day" for the people that suffered and were victims of the Holocaust, many of whom the day of their martyrdom is unknown.
'The important significance of the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, as well as that of the other fast days, is not firstly the grief and morning which they evoke. Their target is to awaken the hearts towards people repenting; to recall to us, both the evil acts of our fathers, and our own evil acts, which triggered anguish to befall both them and us and thereby to make us to return towards doing good.
The aim of fasting, therefore, is to subjugate our evil inclination by restriction of pleasure; to open the gates to our hearts and bring us to repentance and good acts through which the gates of Divine mercy may be opened for us.
We are going to take out the Torah during the fast and read sections of Parshat Ki Tisa in the book of Shemot, we will read parts of chapter 32 and 34, this was the Parshah in which the Jews and the ‘Eruv Rav,’ instituted the golden calf and Moshe smashed the tablets on the ground in retaliation due to the shocking form of idol worship that had been taking place.
This Dvar Torah is dedicated to Odelia Bat Rina who just gave birth to a baby girl, may she make a healthy recovery from giving birth and may the girl grow up to be enriched in Mitzvot.