Given: December 13, 2021
This shiur is dedicated to Rini Moko, Regina bas Yosef Reuven, for her aliyas neshama---ascension of her soul.
Tonight is the 10th of Teves, literally. The fast doesn’t begin until tomorrow morning but I think it’s important to talk about it. What exactly is so severe about the 10th of Teves? What is meant by “severe”? If this date fell on a Friday, you would have to fast. Normally, fast days don’t fall on Friday but were this one to have fallen on Friday, you would have to fast because it’s very, very severe. Why is it so severe? What is the hidden story?
We know what the historical story is, the surrounding of the Beis ha’Mikdash---Holy Temple by King Nebuchadnezar, the beginning of the siege which culminated on the 9th of the month of Av with the destruction of the Temple itself. But like other disasters, the beginnings are always the most terrible time because that’s when the g’zera---decree is. You can almost say that 10th of Teves, due to that decree, is the real decree of the destruction. Once the siege began, once that decree took effect, it was just a matter of time.
So, what accounts for the severity of this decree? In many ways, it’s fascinating and involves a tremendous tragedy. We know that the world needs a tikkun---repair, rectification. G-D created Olam ha’Ze---this physical world devoid of the revelation of G-D’s presence, where that rectification can occur. This is the real purpose of the Creation. There is also an entire spiritual dimension---G-D---“behind” the world we know. G-D wants this rectification to restore His presence, that it should apparent in this world. When the presence of G-D will be revealed, that will be the tikkun, the actual repair. We know that this state of tikkun will be the messianic era.
The tikkun is a process that consists of doing the will of G-D, which is to observe the Torah and, therefore, to do mitzvot---commanaments. If they are not done, or violated, then there’s the act of repentance. If that too is not done, there’s yessurim---suffering. These are the tikkun “devices.” With all three, the world can have its rectification.
Assignment to Nations Other Than the Jews
G-D assigned specific nations to be responsible for administering the tikkun in terms of suffering. The Jewish nation is the agent of tikkun, the nation chosen for this task, therefore the eight persecutorial agents cause their suffering when they sin. There are eight of these persecutorial agents, nations, assigned the task:
The final three are:
1- Ishmael (the Moslems)
2- Amalek (probably the worst)
3- Eirev Rav (Jews who diminish the unique character of Jews by demonstrating that Jewish uniqueness is not Torah but culture)
A bit more about the Eirev Rav: It’s not that they want to eradicate Judaism itself; instead, they reduce its significance by seeing it, treating it, as a culture and not a spiritual quest or demand or journey. Therefore, for them, we are like any other nation.
Besides begin agents of suffering, these nations provide environments that, when the Jews are in them, provide the tests that Jews must “pass,” environments to be overcome in terms of their influence, their enticements, that could cause the Jews to turn from G-D, be led astray. These are environments in which the Jew’s devotion to G-D, to spirituality is tested. This is part of the tikkun.
Let’s start with the environment of Bavel---Babylon. It was a very spiritually-conscious nation but the spirituality was “deity-conscious” in its paganism, polytheism. But even a pagan can be spiritual. The Jews find themselves in Babylon, a pagan civilization.
The next environment to test the Jewish resolve to remain faithful to G-D and to persecute them if they failed was Persia. Persia was known for its tremendous involvement with pleasure. We find in the Megillat Esther---the Chronicle of Esther, that King Achashverosh throws an elaborate seuda---feast which persists for many months. The Jews were to withstand the temptations of hedonism.
Greece offered chochma---wisdom, beauty, in the form of philosophy, art. We’re all familiar with Aristotle, Socrates, Greece’s architecture, science, literature…..
Rome embraces the advances of the previous three and offers an advanced civilization, one that endured for at least a thousand years, the greatest nation on earth.
To the Jews, such environments were intoxicating, displaying and embodying the greatness of man and man’s ability to live together as a society based on law. Yet, despite this, the Jews had to do the mitzvot, had to resist these enticements.
Who are these agents of the tikkun? When the Jews fall short, G-D assigns different segments of mankind to the task of rectification although the Jews, obviously, have the essential teaching process. But there are other nations that assist.
Abbreviated Chronicle of Tikkun
The first to assist in the tikkun, which is to do the Will of G-D in spite of the environmental temptations, is Adam ha’Rishon, the first man. He is the first one assigned the task. He fails. Other than Adam, mankind becomes the agent for two thousand years until the time of Noach. They failed—and failed so bad---that G-D wiped them out with the mabul---Flood. After mankind’s failures culminated in the Flood, another ten were allotted the opportunity but failed which leads us to Avraham Avinu---Abraham, our father. Mankind is the second segment to do it but failed. The third agent is Avraham.
Avraham does the tikkun at the level of a patriarch and is successful but he is not the only one who is supposed to accomplish the rectification. It is his descendants, the Jewish nation who are to do it, to go down to Egypt. It is the tribes of Ya’acov (Jacob) who will do it, and the nation is formed and is now “born,” or developed, into a nation. They enter Israel as a nation, a kingdom, attempting to accomplish the tikkun. It is the nation of Yehuda---which later split---the kingdom of Israel, of the Jewish people, which is to do the repair of Creation.
But, they fail---not totally---especially the Kingdom of Yisrael, that portion, worshipping idols and corrupted by their own leaders, like Menashe. They were led astray to such an extent that G-D said, ostensibly, enough is enough and allowed Nebuchadnezar to destroy the Temple which, in a certain sense, started the exile. Until then, Jews were a nation in their own land, abiding as a kingdom. Thereafter, they become a sort of defunct nation at the point of the chorbon Bayit Rishon---the disaster that befell the First Temple. Enter the first persecutorial agent, Babylon. The Jewish nation left Egypt 800 years before and now enter the second agency of Babylon, the second shibud---empire to subjugate them.
We now begin to encounter a change in Jewish history, a subjugation beginning with Babylon but continuing with subjugation by other nations of the world. It is the entry into the klippa, manifesting in the loss of independence, being subject to domination of other nations: Bavel/Babylon, Poras/Persia, Yavan/Greece and, ultimately, Rome which, as I’ve said many times, is Edom, (which became Christianity and Western Civilization). The Jews, from that point, become exposed to the enticing cultures of these nations, their value systems, which they must withstand. In so doing, the tikkun is advanced.
Other Nations’ Contributions
What is interesting too is that tikkun is now exhibited also by other nations. They too contribute to the process, as we’ll see. In examining the ideas about tikkun, we note that Adam ha’Rishon and the inception of mankind is monotheistic. The concept of polytheism or paganism, both of which have many deities, had not yet entered the consciousness of mankind. Eventually, however, it would. The RaMBaM reasons as to why and how polytheism originated. He says that the people of the world became confused; they realized there was one deity but also thought that G-D has many emissaries, “deputies” that do His will. Eventually, these deputies, to whom the people attributed much power, became all-powerful when people confused them with G-D Himself. They began worshipping the emissaries whether they were planets, stars, or whatever they made up. As time progressed, these emissaries, these forces, were deified and paganism was born.
With this, the world changed. With the entry of Rome and its adoption of Christianity, there was a return to a relative form of monotheism, the deviation being that one deity is divided into three. It’s not a cavalcade of gods so it’s an improvement on paganism.
Then comes Islam, which is monotheistic, but it corrupted the notion of prophecy because it established Mohammad as the greatest and last prophet, greater than Moshe.
The world improves in the sense that it moves closer to monotheism again. We begin to see that Rome, which is Edom, a manifestation of Esav, under Christianity, begins to propagate the idea that there is one G-D, there’s an end to this world, there’s the concept of a messiah. Before Christianity, the world was unaware of a messianic future. They believed that the world would continue ad infinitum. Christianity introduced the concept of a messianic age. This was an improvement.
The Unique Contribution of Christianity
The RaMBaM says that one of the purposes of Christianity was to spread Judaic concepts. They spread the concept of Torah which they refer to as “Old Testament.” Christianity brought Torah to the entire world via their substantial world-wide missionary campaigns. Until then, the “bible” was something only the Jews had. As RaMBaM says, Christianity was chosen by G-D to bring Judaic concepts to mankind. The Jews should have been the ones to accomplish this but, due to their sins, the Jews were relegated to a more basic level of the rectification process. Their task became to resist the temptations of the nations: resist their values and, for example, assimilation which, unfortunately is happening today. They must fulfill the commandments and withstand temptation. If they fail, G-D reminds them by allowing these nations to persecute them. This is the function of exile: maintain Judaism despite temptation and persecution.
The nations of the world, as explained, contribute to the tikkun by introducing ideas which are serious truths that, previously, were obscured. This established system was started by 10th of Teves because the entry into the klippah, into Babylon, and the subjugation of nations began at the siege of Jerusalem. What followed is the destruction and the ensuing exiles.
The Greek contribution to the tikkun is that it provided the world with chochma, logic, philosophy etc., and, even though there are aspects of it which are anti-Torah---there is no doubt about that---the basis of a lot of their chochma, their science, their philosophical inquiries, do introduce a person to truth. Their wisdom appropriates the means by which to discern the distinction between what is true and what is not. As such, it is an advance in the messianic process.
Rome, in terms of Christianity, provided for the growth of Torah-based ideas, even when distorted. When you consider Christianity’s founder, his crucifixion as a criminal, what are the odds that this individual would be crucified as a criminal having violated Roman law because he declared himself to be messiah, king of Jews, and would be the founder of a religion that has two billion adherents? Christianity, in many ways, is one of the most significant moves in religion in world history. What are the odds?—there are none. The reason the Ribono shel Olam---Master of the World allowed Christianity to grow beyond natural means---in fact, Rome became Christian only 300 years after its founder died and Christians were persecuted at the beginning---was to accomplish this spreading of Torah ideas. Despite the persecution of early Christians, the entire Roman Empire eventually became Christian under Constantine in about 325C.E. The Jews then became occupied in the tikkun process in their own way, as I mentioned. Someone had to take on the mission of spreading Torah throughout the world, the spread of monotheism. This became the mission of the goyim---non-Jews! This is sad because it means that the job of influencing the world has been given over to another people, another religion. That’s terrible.
One thing that G-D allowed was to have the Torah translated into Greek. Seventy sages were gathered to write the Torah in Greek and this version is called the “Septuagint” which, translated, literally means “the 70.” That event is looked upon by Judaism as a terrible event. Why? It allowed non-Jews access to Torah thereby enabling distortions, which is what they’ve done to enable Christianity to be legitimized. They claim references to their founder all over the Torah which is, of course, absurd. Besides that, they can claim it as their own. From Greek, it made its way to English, the “King James” version and many others.
Regarding the 10th of Teves marking the beginning of the entry into the klippah, and the
shibud---exile, there is the 9th of Teves which is---if I remember correctly---- the date that the Torah’s translation into Greek was completed. We understand why G-D did this. The only way that the world could know the truth of Torah is if they are able to read it and understand it. So, these translations were Divine acts. The Greek translation was the start of the revelation of Torah to all mankind. At the End of Time, G-d wants the world to reach the truth, and the world has been going in that direction.
The only part of the world that doesn’t move in that direction is the Far East. Hinduism is classic avoda zara---idol worship. Even Buddhism, as practiced today, is so. But Western Civilization is greatly knowledgeable about the bible. In fact, the Torah, the bible itself, is the most published book in the history of publishing. That shows you the pervasiveness of the Torah throughout the world. So, with the 9th of Teves being the beginning of both pervasive access and distortion, followed by the 10th with the siege of Jerusalem, the 10th of Teves marks the beginning of exile and the fulfillment of its purpose. It is, from the Jews’ perspective, a terrible day because it meant that the Jews no longer had complete access, that they’d lost their exclusivity on accomplishing tikkun due to unworthiness. Ultimately, this task will return to them during the messianic era. During the messianic era, once the tikkun has been completed, the Jews will be the ones to reveal and broadcast the truth of Torah.
It is noteworthy that even as these nations contribute to the tikkun process, though it doesn’t always appear that way, they still maintain much of the evil that they do. Looking at Rome, derived from Esav who was a bal taeva----pleasure-seeker, a rotzeach---a murderer, we see that they maintain many of these characteristics.
I feel that the concept of “pro-choice,” which is infanticide, the killing of unborn babies, is part of the murderous aspect of Esav. How can a human being terminate a life justifying it with the argument that it has yet to be born or is just born, allowing women to exterminate their babies? Abortion is legalized murder. How could there be such a trait in a civilized society? The problem is that this is a trait of Esav.
It’s astonishing that one of the worst offenders, the greatest advocate of infanticide, is President Biden. He promotes death of the unborn---anytime, anyplace, for any reason. He should have been excommunicated by the church. There was a convention of bishops recently. They took up that issue and should have excommunicated Biden because, even according to their religion, the pro-choice position is a mortal sin and against the teachings of Christianity. Here’s the President of the United States, one of the most ardent supporters of infanticide. The bishops didn’t do it. Biden met with Pope Francis and nothing was said. The pope told the bishops to lay off Biden, not to say or do anything against him. How does the pope allow somebody to commit a mortal sin? That’s Esav, you see. It’s shocking when you think about it.
So, even though Christianity does contribute to the tikkun process making known the concepts of gehenom---purgatory, messianism, heaven, the importance of righteousness, doing the will of G-D, the value of charity---and this is all well and good---but they are still prone to evil.
So, the 10th of Teves marks the beginning of the Jews new way of doing tikkun through resisting temptation and assimilation. Having lost their exclusivity, the transfer of their task went to the gentiles, chiefly through the spread and popularity of Christianity.
Q & A
Participant: Since this date marks our entry into the klippah that we’re in, does fasting help release us from it?
R’Kessin: Yes. The fasting enables us to do teshuva---repent upon the sin because the reason why Babylon was able to do what it did, as the Gemara says, was because the Jews committed three sins: idolatry, adultery, and murder. These three grievous sins, sins that one must be prepared to be killed for rather than commit them, are the ones they were guilty of committing. So, a kappara---atonement must be earned for them. In terms of the Second Temple, the destruction was due to loshon ha’ra---evil, denigrating speech. We fast to undo these sins that destroyed the Beis ha’Mikdash.
I may not have mentioned last week but, even so, I want to mention again that, during the Shabbat of Chanukah, something unusual happened. Why were the walls surrounded on the 10th of Teves?
Teves is the month of Esav; that is when his mazal---good fortune starts. This is so from the start of Teves until the middle of the next month of Shvat. The second time his fortune “goes up” is rosh chodesh---beginning of the month Tammuz until the middle of the month of Av. This is the entry into the klippa, 10th of Teves. This is another reason why the date of tu b’Shvat---15th of Shvat is so great, because it ends Esav’s mazal. On the 17th of Tammuz is when Moshe broke the luchot---Tablets, which I’ll talk more about also.
Those calamities to the national stature of the Jewish people happened during the time of Esav’s mazal. As I mentioned last week, but want to repeat because it’s a tremendous sign of hope, is that, on Shabbat Chanukah, which was also Teves, which was also Shabbat Miketz---the Torah portion we read in which Yosef is released from prison---which was also rosh chodesh Teves---the advent of Esav’s mazal--- and, added to these confluent events, there was a total solar eclipse in Antarctica, a very bad sign for Edom, for that month of Esav. It is a bad sign for the gentiles because they count by the sun which represents them. The moon represents the Jews because it waxes and wanes like our mazal. The month of their mazal was actually harmed by the eclipse. This is very rare. I don’t know when could have been the last time this happened. To have a total solar eclipse on rosh chodesh of Esav’s month is a very good sign for the Redemption. This is my feeling. It is a strong positive for the Jewish people.
Participant: I heard that another purpose of fasting is that the heavenly tribunal on this day decides whether the Beis ha’Mikdash should be rebuilt in the coming year.
R’Kessin: Yes, that’s true. If it is decided not to build it, that is akin to its destruction; the g’zera---decree against rebuilding is equal to destroying it again. That decree indicates that, were it standing, it would be destroyed. If it were not standing and the decree is not to rebuild it, that is equivalent to its destruction. This is another reason why 10th of Teves is bad. Add up all the bad that I’ve talked about here and this day is really a “downer.”
Participant: It is said that, every year, the tribunal is in session on this day.
R’Kessin: That is what is said in Talmud Yerushalmi; every year that the Beis ha’Mikdash is not built is as if it were repeatedly destroyed. So, every year we witness another destruction of the Beis ha’Mikdash. Since the year 70, it’s been destroyed annually.
Participant: Is there anything specifically we could do besides fasting?
R’Kessin: Yes. Take on the mitzvah of shmirat ha’loshon---guarding one’s speech. That is the key sin among the Jews and the one that destroyed the Temples. It causes pirud---separation and the destruction of achdut----unity. It was due to these that, it is said, the Temples were destroyed, particularly the Second Temple. These sins intensify the pirud. Take upon yourselves to learn two halachot---laws per day pertaining to shmirat ha’loshon. That is the perfect remedy for the whole concept of what the 10th of Teves represents.
Participant: I wanted to go over one thing, when you were talking about how the nations of the world were monotheistic but eventually became confused and used the idea of deputies and emissaries as objects of worship, becoming their gods. I see a correlation with today. I don’t know that you see it, but I think you do, that people of today are confused and are using science, that doctor, Dr. Fauci and whatever else---you could fill in the blanks, whatever---but using this as the only path to follow and missing the link to ha’Shem, missing G-D in it.
R’Kessin: There is no question that such goes on all the time, people worshipping themselves. If you read some statistics---it’s terrible--- it shows that 34% of Jews who were polled said that they don’t care if their kids are Jewish. So, what are they into? They’re into themselves. They’ve supplanted G-D with themselves, their right to do whatever they want. I read also that in Manhattan---or is it New York State---the majority are not married. They don’t want to sacrifice or compromise. Marriage is a commitment. You have to spend money to raise children, make the time, exert the effort and energy which they don’t want to do. They want to “enjoy life” and so have chosen to remain unmarried and childless. So then, what are they worshipping?---themselves. They’ve renounced deities. The Catholic church is dying. It is reported that 90% of the Catholic churches in Europe are empty. The only ones who visit the churches are tourists. Catholicism is dying because people don’t believe in G-d or, even if they do, they’re not interested in committing any effort, time, money, to religion. Today we see an unbelievable drive to indulge one’s desires and little more. We are now worshippers in the “religion of self.”
They’ve cast G-d aside. This is the current mood of the world. Religion is discarded all over the planet---not all---but certainly in much of the Western world.
Much of this development is assisted by science, by Darwinism and theories of evolution. If you believe you come from monkeys, why should you listen to anything? Who determines the values of mankind?---nobody. You do. There’s no question that the Theory of Evolution has contributed to the demise of religion on a grand scale. Even those who are religious don’t know much about their religion. People don’t ask or analyze or inquire or investigate at all. They just follow what their parents said or did. If they observe at all, it is on a very superficial level. Is that being “religious” really? One does what one wants and tries to get away with it. This is what I see as the driving major motive of this era.
Participant: If this time, right now, is so dark and the veil so thick in front of many peoples’ eyes, especially people that you’re describing---many of them being Jews---how are we getting out of it? We have to finish the tikkun. How do you come out of it enough to where we’re ready for the mashiach to be here? What I mean is….you said the mashiach can’t come until the nation is ready to receive him.
R’Kessin: The answer is that there is no humanly way possible. G-D will change the consciousness of the world probably by an event which is absolutely staggering and cannot be denied. That’s exactly what happened in Egypt. Jews couldn’t leave Egypt---it was impossible---so what He did was wiped out Egypt. This moved them. You cannot deny the Nile turning to blood or any of the other makot---blows, plagues. Then, suddenly, came the makot bechorot---plague of the firstborn. This was unheard of. Every firstborn of Egypt dies. Who knows how many died. There is no such disease that can do that. What G-d will do is change the consciousness of mankind via an event which will astonish everyone so that they realize the truth about what the Torah says. Once that happens, everyone will want to seek the truth. They will want to learn more about G-d. This is what will happen in the End of Time. Like it says, at the End, there will be a hunger in the land but not for bread. There will be a thirst, but not for water, but to know the Word of G-d.
Really? Now we see the opposite. Nobody is thirsting or hungering to know G-d---on the contrary. Who wants to know G-D? There has to be some type of supernatural event to shock the world into a different consciousness, just like in Egypt. There is no other way, really. Once the change happens, whoever gives a shiur---lesson, a lecture, a class in Torah will be in the limelight. Everyone will want to know what G-D has to say about existence. Hopefully we’re not far off from that.
You’re looking at it from the perspective of natural means. This cannot be natural. It will never happen that way. It has to be an extraordinary, supernatural event that’s global. The Jews are no longer in one nation as they were in Egypt. They’re all over the world so the event must be global. We don’t know how it will happen, but it will. This is what it means when it says that, even if your outcasts are at the ends of heaven, from there G-D will gather you. This means that an event so stupendous will occur that everybody will want to find out about G-D.
Participant: In order for that to happen, the pekida---remembrance (coded language for the onset of the messiah’s release) must happen first?
R’Kessin: As long as the shechina---Divine Presence, as long as Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yosef are in the klippa, in “prison,” it cannot happen. They have to be released; that’s the first thing to happen.
Participant: The way we’ll know they’ve been released is when this miraculous thing happens globally? We don’t know right now whether they’ve been released or not.
R’Kessin: That’s right. I’m hoping that the solar eclipse is a sign that, maybe this month, it will happen.
(Murmurs of “amen.”)
One thing is for sure; it will be extraordinary. We’re not looking for an average newspaper story that the messiah has arrived. What we saw in Egypt will happen again but, this time, it’s over. Remember what I said; G-D is going to press the “re-start button” because the geula—Redemption must restart everything because mankind has reached the 49th level of tumah---defilement. It’s already happened. This time, unlike the Flood, the restart button is the mashiach himself. This too is like Egypt when Moshe was Mashiach ben Yosef. The problem now is that the Jews are not worthy of Redemption. So, G-D has to bring them “up to speed.” He must bring a kappara---atonement to the world itself and that’s happening. That is why there is so much suffering.
Participant: Until the big event, it just seems like we’re really craving this Light, looking for Light, and we just had Chanukah with its Ohr ha’Ganuz---concealed Light, and now the 10th of Teves. It seems like we go from holiday to holiday just hoping for a little bit of Light. All these things are happening this year like it’s a leap year. Are all these things like a little bit of Light for us?
R’Kessin: Well, each holiday has its own meaning, its own purpose, its own function in the tikkun. Ultimately, we will have succeeded in bringing the tikkun klali---total rectification of Creation. It will happen. Then it’s over. As I mentioned last week, Yosef could not hold himself back. Remember last week’s lecture? I believe G-D will begin the process before the end of the tikkun. He won’t be able to hold Himself back, so to speak. This is the rachamim gedolim for akabtzech---tremendous mercy that speaks to that “one second I will abandon you and with incredible mercy I will gather you.” It is that “tremendous mercy” which tells us that, even before the tikkun is completed, G-D will have said: enough is enough. I’m the boss and I declare that it’s over and it’s over.
This is what we await, when G-D has had enough of the sinning, the relentless rebellion of mankind going against His Will and against the Jewish people. That’s when it’s gonna happen. He’s gonna be fed up with the whole process and end it. He wants to end it now.