Today, Friday December 13th we observe the Tenth of Tebet, a fast day. The main event we remember on this day is the onset of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuhadnezzar, King of Babylonia. The siege of the city signaled the beginning of the battle that ultimately destroyed Yerushalayim and our first Bet haMiqdash in the year 586 BCE. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed, died of starvation during the siege or were sent as captives to the Babylonian exile. The date of the Tenth of Tebet was recorded by the prophet Yehezqel. At the time of the destruction of the Bet haMiqdash Yehezqel was already exiled in Babylonia with the first group of Jews who were taken there by Nebuhadnezzar eleven years earlier.
On the 10th of Tebet there are only two restrictions: eating and drinking. NO additional limitations apply, such as the prohibition of wearing leather shoes, working, driving, washing the body, etc.
Most contemporary Rabbis (R. E. Melamed, Rab O. Yosef z"l) authorize to wash one's mouth or brush one's teeth in this Ta'anit provided you are careful to lower your head, avoiding swallowing water unintentionally.
IMPORTANT NOTICE about the TODAY'S FAST
The Tenth of Tebet is the only fast day that might fall on a Friday. In NYC the fast began today at 6:16am. Today, we will be receiving Shabbat while fasting and we will break the fast with the Qiddush, which should be said not before 4.49pm, NYT. Minha service this Friday will probably be early than a normal Friday, because we will have Tora reading and Birkat Kohanim. Follow your community's calendar and notifications.
Candle lighting in NYC: 4:09 p.m.
Shabbat ends in NYC: 5:09 p.m.
Who is exempted from fasting today?
*Minors: boys under 13 and girls under 12 years old are completely exempted from fasting.
*Nursing women: According to the Sephardic tradition after giving birth women are exempted from fasting for 24 months, even if they are not actually nursing their baby.
*Pregnant women, especially after the first 3 months, are exempted from fasting.
*A person who feels sick--for example, flu or fever-- or one who has a chronic disease--for example diabetes-- should not fast.
*Elders should consult with their physicians if the fast will not affect their health. If it will, they are exempted (and in some cases, prohibited) from fasting.
YOM HAKADDISH HAKELALI
In modern Israel, the 10th of Tebet is also recognized as the day of the Kaddish haKelaly. According to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, on the Tenth of Tebet a remembrance-candle should be lit in the Synagogue and the Hazkara leHalale haShoah should be recited. Additionally, all those whose parents are not alive should say the Kaddish Yatom (luach dinim uminhaguim 5772, pages. 55,109).
This point requires more explanation.
In 1949, and before the day of Yom HaShoah was established, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel decided that the Tenth of Tebet should be assigned as the national remembrance day for the victims of the Holocaust. They recommended traditional Jewish ways of remembering the dead, such as the study of Mishna Mikvaot, saying Tehilim, lighting a candle and a communal recitation of the Kaddish for the victims of the Holocaust whose names and date of death remain unknown. Fasting, the most common Jewish expression of sorrow, was already prescribed for this day.
In Israel many people felt that the horror of the Holocaust should be remembered on its own, and a special day should be dedicated to the Shoah's victims' memory. "For the Holocaust survivors there was only one day worthy of being a memorial anniversary for the Holocaust--April 19, the beginning day of the Warsaw ghetto revolt the greatest revolt of them all, the uprisings that had held the Nazis at bay for a longer period than the great French army" (I. Greenberg). That is how the 27 of Nissan was chosen to commemorate Yom haShoah. Yom HaShoah was inaugurated in 1953, by a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel David ben Gurion.
Since then, and in practical terms, there are two days in which we mourn for the Holocaust: Yom haShoah, the official day, and'asara beTebet, in which people say the Kaddish haKelaly to remember the victims of the Nazi genocide.