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FAST OF TEVES - THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28
The Fast of Teves begins on Thursday morning at 6:05am and ends at 5:25pm.
On the Tenth of Teves, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylonia, surrounded and laid siege to the holy city of Jerusalem. For a year and a half, he terrorized its citizens until the city fell and he took our ancestors into exile and destroyed our holy Temple.
Unlike Yom Kippur, which commences at sundown on the previous night, the 10th of Teves is an easy fast, but a critical one especially in these most difficult times for our people. Ahmadinijad is attempting to orchestrate another Holocaust, G-d forbid; the world is filled with terror. Additionally, we are plagued by myriad internal problems – from family to financial crises. We have only one solution – to turn to G-d and pray and fast.
This Shabbos we conclude Sefer Bereshis, the first of the Five books of the Torah. Therefore this Shabbos is referred to as Shabbos Chazak -The Sabbath of Strength, because as we conclude the Book of Genesis, the entire congregation rises and proclaims, "Chazak, Chazak, V`Nischazek - "Be Strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened! We ask the Almighty to give us the strength to continue and succeed in our Torah studies. At first glance it may appear strange that we extend wishes for strength at this time -- it should really be at the commencement of our undertaking that we do so, but beginnings are always marked by enthusiasm and zeal. The trick is to retain that same level of enthusiasm at the end. Therefore, upon concluding our studies, we make a commitment to continue our Torah studies with strength and devotion and pray that this conclusion be a stepping stone for further spiritual growth and development.
PARSHAS VAYECHI - PRE MESSIANIC TIMES – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
In this week’s parsha, the patriarch Jacob on his deathbed gathers his children to tell them that which would occur at the end of days, in the pre-Messianic period: “Assemble yourselves and I will tell you that which will happen at the end of days. Gather yourselves, sons of Jacob, and listen to your father.” (Genesis 49:1) But strangely enough, Jacob does not make this revelation, and our sages explain that Jacob went blank – that Hashem took away his Ruach HaKodesh and thereby prevented him from relating that which would happen. But if this be so why does the Torah relate the entire incident? Obviously there is something more to this that must be gleaned. The word “Vayikroh”, which means “that which will happen”, is always spelled with a “hey” - “h”, but in this passage, it is spelled with an a - “aleph”, and that means “to call”.
Could it be that Jacob did tell us what would happen in the pre-Messianic period – that G-d would be calling, but we would be blank and not perceive His message? Since 9/11, we have had one wake-up call after another, and now, we are in yet another crisis, with the nations turning against Israel. All our icons are collapsing so that we may come to the realization that “ayn od milvado – There is no One but G-d.” Our wake-up calls come, but we are blank – we do not understand. We have yet to hear the call of G-d and turn to Him. The terrible suffering that has been predicted for this period is unfolding before our eyes – but we do not hear His voice. In his blessing, our father Jacob also gave us the antidote through which we can protect ourselves during these difficult times: “Gather yourselves and be one –unify as one. Cease your bickering and to turn to G-d and His Torah, for that is the key to our redemption.
Let us take comfort from the knowledge that what we are witnessing are not random happenings, but calls from G-d. May we respond to His call and behold our redemption speedily in our day.