Friday, January 02, 2009
The Fast of the Tenth of the Month of Tevet
This week we have a Fast Day, vaguely related to the fall of the walls of Jerusalem to the Babilonian invaders, but which has been interpreted by modern Jewish mystics as the day to repent for sexual sins. In this day of fasting and mortification, Jews are forbidden to eat, to have sex and the most religious even goes barefoot. It is known that in his passionate yearning to vanquish and subdue his evil inclinations, the Tzanz-Klausberg Rebbe would engage in bouts of self-mortification. He would fast throughout the week, immerse in freezing ponds, roll himself in the snow, sleep on the ground, go into self-imposed exile without any money in his pocket, and even rub all of his body with a fiery weed that brought on inflammation and boils. But the greatest tikun (correction or repair), he taught, and the most effective way to conquer the evil inclination, was to study Torah day and night.
In addition to advocating increased Torah learning during this period, he would prescribe fasting from speaking, known as a "taanit debor," (speak fast) asserting that anyone who committed transgressions with his speech was certain to also commit sexual transgressions, something explained in the esoteric secrets of Torah (Chida, "Ahavat HaKodesh," Tzipora Shamir, 7:101).