Many of us are familiar with the well-known prophecy describing Jerusalem; that from the holy city will come the Torah and the word of God. This is of course a remarkable vision that is unique to the city that is viewed as both the spiritual and physical capital of Judaism. In discussing the prophecy, Rabbi Kook asks us to pay attention not only to what is included within, but as importantly to what it lacks.
Specifically, if we compare the prophecy to what we have come to expect from other religions, we see that there is no call to action that will require us to defend Jerusalem or to enforce its holiness on others.
The dream that we foresaw for Jerusalem was that all peoples of faith would naturally recognize the sanctity of the city and respect it as such. There would always be a global thirst for the holiness and the messages which would emerge from the city. For generations this prophecy would hold true and the hope was that the city would remain a place of peace that would attract and welcome others into its walls. Over hundreds of years, Jerusalem welcomed peoples of many faiths and backgrounds.
Yet, while the prophecy certainly intended a vision of peace and harmony among the peoples who would come to Jerusalem, we know that just the opposite came to pass. Under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian army arrived in the city with the goal of conquering it and removing it from Jewish control. They had little interest in learning the word of Torah or God but were intent only on destruction and murder.
This is one of the main tragedies which we mark with the fast of the 10th of Tevet because it was the point where the remarkable prophecy was proven false.
The question of course is why? What did the Jewish people do to deserve that a prophecy of peace be transformed into one of hatred and persecution?
As with so many times in Jewish history, the answer lies in what we as a people did to the gifts that God has bestowed on us. A city that was designed to be one of justice, morality, charity and respect, had strayed so far from those ideals.
And once the city had abandoned its identity as a city of justice, it was no longer a place where the pain of the impoverished was prioritized but rather crime and evil came to dominate.
This painful transformation is what served as the basis for the Tenth of Tevet. This was the day when it became clear that the original prophecy had not come true and in many ways was the proof that the Jewish people had lost its way. The very essence of Jewish existence, predicated upon ethics and morality, was no longer what defined us.
It would take many more years for us to have the chance to regain our identities and to rebuild.
So while we have been blessed to rebuild and in many ways restore this critical aspect of our national identity, history demands that we remind ourselves of how we have strayed in the past. For while our history is defined by so many tragedies and destructions, the greatest loss that we have ever been forced to endure is the loss of the proper spiritual path.
This fast reminds us that we deserve to do everything possible to ensure that never again occur, both from our spiritual center of Jerusalem and all across the Jewish world.