Jerusalem Under Siege!
Jerusalem under siege of foreign army! This is the headline which would have appeared almost two and a half millennia ago this week. On the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet observant Jews fast to recall the tragedy which took place when Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonia invaders, the first stage of the catastrophe of destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and a seventy-year exile.
The purpose of this fast, like another three throughout the year, is to reflect on the errors our ancestors made in their relationship with their Creator which brought those punishments upon them. These are errors, points out Rambam (Laws of Fasting 5:1), which we unfortunately perpetuate in every generation, and the spiritual experience of fasting is intended to open our hearts to a return to G-d.
Modern Israel is under siege today as well. In addition to the threat of Palestinian terror, which has not completely vanished despite the disappearance of the arch-terrorist Arafat, there is Hizbullah in the north and the nuclear capacity of Iran which create an atmosphere of life under siege.
Despite the warnings of the Prophets of the impending danger, our ancestors continued in their sinful ways, confident that their defense was invincible. Some Jews in Israel today seem to have the same attitude. They refuse to learn from the past and recklessly persist in their battle against religion in the Jewish state. The head of a violently anti-religious political party recently made a remark about the religious public which would have been condemned as anti-Semitic demagoguery if said by a non-Jew. He demonstrated the same disdain for religious leaders that the citizens of Jerusalem did for the Prophet who warned them of the consequences of their actions.
Those who refuse to learn from history, it has been said are condemned to relive it. We certainly do not wish to see the siege we are in today end the way the siege of old did. Our fasting on Asara BTevet should hopefully open the hearts of all Jews to return to G-d Who alone can protect Israel forever.