TEVET – The Tenth Hebrew Month

Blessing of the New Month of Tevet – Birkat Ha’Chodesh

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Tevet upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life:   a life of peace – Shalom,
a life of goodness – Tovah,
a life of blessing – Bracha,
a life of sustenance – Parnassa, ,
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot, 
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet,
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah, 
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod, 
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God – Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem, 
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

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The Hebrew month of Tevet begins during the last days of Hanukkah. While we enjoy the radiant final lightings of the candles, we remember that we are facing the prospect of the dark months of winter to come. Thus, we are all the more grateful for the bright, dancing flames of the Hanukkah menorah, and we are encouraged and strengthened by the rededication of our lives to the One God who is above all gods.

We can look forward two months, to the month of Adar and the joyous festival of Purim, when we happily celebrate the beginning of spring and are let loose from the constraints of winter, but now we are entering the somber month of Tevet.

Why is Tevet a time of mourning? An answer is recorded in Jewish literature:

Behold, that the retribution [in the era of the first Holy Temple, when Jerusalem was besieged, leading to its destruction] began in this month, was surely for a reason. It seems to me that this was because [Tevet] corresponds to the tribe of Dan, who were the first people to worship an idol…

(Bnei Yissachar, Maamarei Chodesh Kislev-Tevet 14:2)

What can we understand from the relationship between Dan and Hanukkah and the month of Tevet? Let us begin by examining the blessing that Jacob bestowed on Dan.

Dan will judge his people like the unique one of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward. I wait for Thy salvation, O Lord.

(Genesis 49:16-18)

The name Dan is derived from the Hebrew root word din, to judge. Before David was instituted as the first king of Israel, the judges and prophets were recognized as the leaders of the people. The traits of the tribe of Dan were most clearly reflected in one of its most famous descendants, Samson. Israel was united under his leadership, and he avenged his people by bringing retribution upon the Philistines. Just as a snake attacks the rider by striking his horse, so did Samson bring down the Philistines without actually touching them.

Jacob’s cry, “For Your salvation do I long, O Lord,”  echoes in the blinded Samson’s desperate plea that God restore his lost strength before he toppled the pillars of the pagan temple (Judges 13–17). God heard his cry and the temple of Dagon collapsed killing Samson and all the Philistine governors, as well as three thousand people who had come to scornfully watch the spectacle of the captured Israelite leader.

Dan and Yehudah were the largest tribes numerically, and also the strongest physically, and both are compared to lions. As the tribes of Israel travelled through the wilderness, Yehudah was at the head and Dan travelled last, to guard the rear. The Midrash deduces a partnership between the two tribes from the verse, “Dan will judge his people like the unique one [k’echad] of Israel”. The Hebrew word k’echad is related to ha’meuchad – the unique or special leader of Israel. The great leader Samson was actually a product of a union between Dan and Yehudah. His father, Manoach, was from Dan and his mother from Yehudah. The unique one, however, can only refer to King David, who was a descendent of the tribe of Yehudah, and who is the predecessor of Mashiach ben David, Messiah the son of David – the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

A Challenging Month!

Historically, Israel faced and endured tragic calamities during the month of Tevet. The great tragedy of the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple and the exile to Babylon is commemorated each year by fasting during the day on the tenth of Tevet, Asarah b’Tevet (ironically, 25 December, 2020).

Many other tragedies that occurred during Tevet are recorded. For example, in 1496 the Jews of Portugal, many of whom had immigrated there after their expulsion from Spain only four years before, were presented with the edict that they must be baptized into Catholicism or leave the country within a year.

How fitting, then, that the dark days at the start of Tevet are illuminated by the light of Hanukkah. A glowing reminder that at Creation God created the light and saw that it was good. The name Tevet comes from the root of the Hebrew word tov, meaning good.      The goodness of His light dispels every darkness. His deliverance is always at hand. Interestingly, it was on Rosh Chodesh Tevet that, after their ordeal in the Ark, Noah finally saw a sign of their deliverance,

…in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

                                              (Genesis 8:5)

We can go forward into the unknown and often dark and threatening future in the knowledge that in the God of Israel lies the overcoming against all odds. He has provided the triumph of light over darkness, of victory over Israel’s enemies; the many are delivered into the hands of the few, the strong into the hands of the weak, the wicked into the hands of the righteous. All in order that His Name be lifted up in the earth and all darkness be banished forever.

You deliver a humble people, but Your eyes are upon the proud to bring them down. You are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness.

(2 Samuel 22:28-29)

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It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

(1 Corinthians 4: 4-5)

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