Empty Seat: A Thought for Asarah BeTevet

I often ponder what Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz said to Dr. Robert Pollack when he wrote about about science and religion. Rabbi Steinsaltz said, “If you know someone who says the Throne of God is empty, and lives with that, then you should cling to that person as a good, strong friend. But be careful: almost everyone who says that, has already placed something or someone else on that Throne, usually themselves.” Even if the idea of God is very distant, we can realize the deepest Torah in knowing that none of us are God. Being a religious person in a secular environment makes it easy to slip from seeing oneself as a beneficiary of God’s message to judging everyone who does not live according to your lifestyle.

I was thinking of this idea today we commemorated the Tenth of Tevet – Asarah BeTevet. This fast day is observed in mourning of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia—an event that began on that date and ultimately culminated in the destruction of the First Temple and the conquest of the Kingdom of Yehudah. In many ways this is the beginning of the long slog to our diaspora that only ended in 1948.

Nebuchadnezzar camps outside Jerusalem.  Petrus Comestor‘s “Bible Historiale”, 1372

I was thinking about what Rabbi Steinsaltz said in the context of the etymology of the word siege itself. It comes to us from the early 13c., segge, “a seat, chair, stool; ceremonial seat of a king”. When Nebuchadnezzar II  besieged Jerusalem one could only imagine it challenged the Israelites foundational belief in their God as King. Was God’s Throne empty?

It is hard to make meaning out of this fast day. If nothing else I remind myself in not eating or drinking today, even if that seat remained empty, if nothing else, I am not God.


0 Responses to “Empty Seat: A Thought for Asarah BeTevet”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 242 other subscribers

Archive By Topic

%d bloggers like this: