The 10th of Tevet, translation of the Torah, and how to remain special.Two years ago Rabbi Natan Bar-Chaim shared these thoughts with the Jerusalem College of Technoligy. They made an impression on me and since then I've shared them with friends. Your turn.
3 things were recorded as reasons for the fast of the tenth of Tevet:
The translation of the Torah into Greek by King Talmai, an unrecorded event (many say it was the death of Ezra and Nechemiah, according to some the birth of Jesus), and the beginning of the siege on Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
The second two items are events that proved tragic to the Jews throughout history but the first one - the translation of the Torah needs some explanation. Why was/is it so awful that Torah, which we are supposed to be spreading to the world anyway, be translated and accessible to all? I could even make the case that the Jews should have taken the initiative to translate the bible into every language known and spread it around the world! What was the great tragedy?
Many social commentators have noted that it takes a lot to shock people today. By the time a child is 10 he has seen __ number of murders on TV, seen __ pictures of nude women, knows it all and has seen it all. What used to be shocking and scandalous is so commonplace it's not even noticed. Nothing is sacred.
Not only have we slaughtered the sacred cows but also the sacred Gods. In the name of open knowledge and education, even religions have no secrets; nothing is off limits, nothing is sacred. Kabbalah used to be viewed as high mystical texts that would burn your eyes out if you so much as glanced at them before the age of 40. Over the last ten years names of angels, hidden books, and even names of G-d drop off our lips with out thought. Everyone's a Kabbalist. There is a clear upside to this: more people can now understand the workings of G-d's holy world and many people have found the spirituality they sought within Judaism rather than the false spirituality of eastern religions and idolatries. But the price we pay is over-familiarity. It's no longer special, it's commonplace, we have become desensitized to what should be extraordinary.
This was the tragedy that King Talmai started. Torah, the dictated word of G-d given to man in a one-time revelation to two million people, was now able to fit on the bookshelf next to the suspense novels of the day. Torah went from being something one had to study, work for and strive towards understanding to a light pleasurable read that could one day be called "stories" or "Hebraic mythology".
That was then and so too now. The things that shock us today tomorrow become commonplace, the books we hold sacred, through overexposure lose their mystique and rate no higher than any other form of knowledge. Is it then not surprising that Torah is being abandoned at the drop of a hat? Why should I say that Torah is more important then my (novel/ video game/ phone call/ afternoon nap)? Zilzul of Torah is today's manifestation of King Talmai's translation and is part of what we need to repent for on this fast day.
A note on fasts:
(Hunger is a wonderful reminder, a gift that G-d gave us so we would remember to eat. Imagine if we had a little alarm clock telling us when to eat. We would treat it like an alarm clock – hit the snooze bar, sleep through it, not bother to set it, and end up starving to death without realizing. Hunger is continual and doesn't have a snooze bar. The purpose of a fast is not just to be hungry but to use the alarm clock called hunger as a constant reminder of something throughout your day, an opportunity/obligation for self assessment.)