Moroccan Halakha
8 Tebet 5774 – 11 December 2013 – Parashat VaYehi
Fast of the 10th of Tebet (‘Asara BeTebet) this Thursday night and Friday

* Haftara – Parashat VaYe’hi – R. David Kadoch
* Pesuq DeZimra (Weekday) – R. David Kadoch
* Baby Girl Naming – Lissim – Zeved HaBat


Part 1 of 2

Why is it so important to fast on ‘Asara BeTebet?

On the 10th of Tebet the holy city of Jerusalem was besieged. This was the beginning of a chain of calamities that would eventually lead to the destruction of the Bet HaMiqdash. Derush Hatam Sofer (Ribi Mosh Sofer, Derush Adar 7:4) explains that on the 10th of Tebet it was decided in Heaven that the Bet HaMiqdash was to be destroyed. Every subsequent year a judgment is held in the heavenly courts to determine whether or not the third Bet HaMiqdash is to be rebuilt. Due to this important reason, even if the fast fell on Shabat,[1] we would be required to fast (Abudraham, O”H Siman 550), as the pasuq states (Yehezqel 24:2) “be’esem hayom haz” indicating that the fast must be conducted on the exact day it falls on. Even on Tish’a BeAb we do not fast if it lands on Shabat. Therefore, when fasting on ‘Asara BeTebet one should realize that we are all being judged on whether or not the third Bet HaMiqdash will be rebuilt this year and we should make this fast very dear to us.

This year there is the rare occurrence where the fast of ‘Asara BeTebet falls out on a Friday. There are some differences when this situation occurs compared to when the fast falls on a regular weekday, see below for those differences.

Tora Reading

When this fast occurs on ‘Ereb Shabat as opposed to a regular weekday, Moroccan Jews follow the Bet Yosef’s ruling (O”H Siman 550)[2] to not read the parasha of VaYehal Mosh that is read at Minha on normal fast days.[3] Some write that this is still the minhag of Meknes.[4]

Nevertheless, for reasons unknown it appears that the prevalent custom nowadays is to read the Tora at Minha even in Moroccan synagogues.[5]

During the Tora reading on fast days, the minhag is that when the reader reaches the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (Shelosh ‘Esr Midot, beginning from “Ado-nai, Ado-nai”), he stops while the congregation says them aloud; he then reads them aloud himself and continues with the rest of the reading.[6] It should be mentioned that this is only done on fast days and not on Shabat Perashat Ki Tisa when the same portion is read. Qadish is not said after this reading, rather the Tora is returned to the hekhal followed by Qadish and the ‘Amida.[7]


The Bet Yosef (Siman 46) rules that tefilin must be worn during Minha on fast days since we are lacking in the 100 berakhot that one is required to say everyday due to the fact that we are not eating and miss out on those berakhot. Therefore, the minhag in Morocco developed to wear the talet and tefilin at Minha with a berakha, on all fast days, in order to arrive at these 100 berakhot.[8]

However, when a fast falls on ‘Ereb Shabat (Friday) tefilin are not worn after hasot, therefore they are not worn at Minha, even according to Moroccans.[9]

[1] Before our modern day set calendar, the holidays and fast days would be determined based upon when Rosh Hodesh was established. Rosh Hodesh would only be established once two witnesses came to the Bet Din and testified that they had seen the moon. Nowadays, with our fixed calendar, the 10th of Tebet can never fall on Shabat.

[2] Opposing the opinion of the Agur who quotes the Shibol HaLeqet. HaMalakh Refael Berdugo (Torot Emet, O”H 550:3) writes that the custom of Moroccan Jewry is to follow the Agur. See also Shufr DeYosef Berdugo and Ribi David ‘Obadia (Nahagu Ha’Am) who quotes the Torot Emet.

[3] This is because the holiness of Shabat already starts from hasot of Friday. Therefore, we do not read such perashiot. See HaMalakh Refael Berdugo (ibid.) who writes this but clarifies that on fast days that fall during the week the Tora is read at Minha, Nahagu Ha’Am (Ta’aniot), and Ribi Yosef Berdugo (Shufr DeYosef, Hilkhot Ta’anit).

[4] See Maghen Abot (notes of e”H Ribi Abraham ‘Amar s”t (Luah Be-ito) in the name of Ribi Dabiliski) who holds that this custom should be upheld by those who have such a tradition. E”H Ribi Yishaq Rasabi s”t writes that certain Yemenite communities did not read this Tora portion either (see S”A HaMequsar).

[5] Although this custom is mentioned in the above sources, it appears that it was not prevalent in most communities. In the Qisur Shulhan ‘Arukh of Ribi Refael Barukh Toledano this minhag is not mentioned. Furthermore, when the Shufr DeYosef and Nahagu Ha’Am do mention it, they do not write that this is what was practiced, they simply quote what they found in the Torot Emet. After discussing the matter with e”H Ribi Shelomo Dayan s”t (author of ‘Ateret Shelomo), and others, it was unanimously agreed that the minhag to not read the parasha is not the prevalent one, and one should indeed read from the Sefer Tora at Minha when the fast of ‘Asara BeTebet falls on a Friday. E”H Ribi David Banon s”t mentions that he was in Morocco 14 years ago when the fast fell on ‘Ereb Shabat, and e”H Ribi Shim’on Suissa s”t was poseq to read from the Tora and further mentioned that if the tefila would be at Minha Gedola, tefilin would also be worn. E”H Ribi David Peres s”t mentions that his community in Caracas, Venezuela also reads from the Sefer Tora at Minha as well as e”H Ribi ‘Amram Assayag s”t (Chief Sefaradi Rabbi of Toronto). See also Osar HaMikhtabim (Heleq 3, 829), VaYomer Yishaq (Ta’aniot Siman 2), Ma’as Bereshit (Ta’anit), and Shoshanim LeDavid Sabah (Heleq 2, Siman 4).

[6] E”H Ribi Mordekhai Lebhar s”t explains that this is done in order to awaken the congregation during fast days to change their ways and start emulating the midot of their creator, Hashem, Yitbarakh Shemo La’ad. See Maran HaHida in LeDavid Emet (Siman 10:10) who says this is the minhag, Ribi Yishaq ibn Danan (LeYishaq Reah 100), Ribi Yosef Benaim (Noheg BeHokhma, Sefer Tora 4 p.141) who brings this minhag in the name of the Sefer HaHasidim (Siman 200), and Ribi David ‘Obadia (Nahagu Ha’Am, Ta’aniot, p.116).

[7] See the Moroccan mahzor Hamesh Ta’aniot.

[8] See Ribi Yishaq Benoualid (VaYomer Yishaq, Liqutim: Ta’anit 2). So too is the custom in Fes (heard from e”H Ribi Aharon Monsonego s”t), Meknes, Marrakech, Tanger, Tetouan (e”H Ribi Ya’aqob Benaim s”t, Maghen Abot, O”H p.428 79), and most other cities.

[9] Ribi Yishaq Benoualid (VaYomer Yishaq, Heleq 1, Liqutim O”H Ta’aniot), however, rules that when the fast falls on ‘Ereb Shabat, tefilin are NOT worn because the holiness of Shabat has already presided. He bases his ruling on reasons rooted in Qabala. The posqim who mention this minhag seem to imply that even if Minha Gedola is prayed, one still does not wear tefilin because it is after hasot; see Maran HaHida in Mahziq Berakha (Siman 267) and Kaf HaHayim (Siman 25:100).