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10 Tevet: United Under Siege

01/02/2023 12:42:31 PM


We all know the feeling of being under siege.

It may be as innocuous as being the only other vegetarian at the family reunion dinner, as disquieting as being the only member of your gender in a crowded elevator or as terrifying as being herded into a room with the rest of the embassy staff by masked gunmen. These scenarios share little in common, except for the situation of finding yourself part of a distinct group of people who are outnumbered or otherwise overwhelmed by a common adversary.

An interesting thing happens in these situations: we begin to feel a kinship with our fellow besieged. People who ordinarily would not interest us in the least — people who, in ordinary circumstances, we would perhaps even despise — become our brothers and sisters. We begin to care about them; their suffering becomes our suffering, their triumphs become our triumphs. An attack on them becomes an attack on us — after all, we're in this together.

The 10th of the month of Tevet is a fast day. On this date 2448 years ago the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchanezzar laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. This was the first of a series of events leading to the destruction of the Holy Temple and the exile of the Jewish people. It is thus a day of fasting and repentance — a day in which we mourn the tragic events of the day, contemplate their deeper causes in our own souls and deeds, and work to correct them.

Coming under siege is a horrible experience. A literal siege brings famine, plague and bloodshed. Beneath all the negativity, however, lies the liberating and empowering realization: We're in this together! Despite our differences, despite the animosities and quarrels that strive to drive us apart, we share a common fate, a common identity, a common goal. Being under siege brings to light a truth that was always there but which we had hitherto been prevented from or have avoided seeing — the truth that we are all one.

The trick, of course, is to grasp this truth, to hold on to it and possess it, without its negative trappings. May it be speedily in our day!

Sun, February 25 2024 16 Adar I 5784