This fast name is the calendar date which it is observed on, the tenth day of the month of Tevet. Its Hebrew name is "Asar b'Tevet."
It is sometimes referred to as "the Fast of the Tenth."
2 Kings, Chapter 25 tells of the capture of Jerusalem. Also read Jeremiah 52:4 and Zechariah 8:19.
The fast on the Tenth Day of Tevet helps us to remember the capture of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar. This day reminds us of the beginning of a three year siege that eventually led to the First Temple being destroyed on the 9th of Av, in 586 B.C..
Articles of interest related to Jerusalem and the temple include:
Some historians consider this time in Israel's history as the beginning of the end of Israel's first commonwealth and first temple. It is believed that by this time the exile of the Jewish people had already begun but was not completed. King Yehoyachin had already been taken into captivity along with Ezekiel. Left behind to rule was the kings son, Tzedkiyahu.
Prophets had warned of this event, the exile of the Jews and destruction of the Temple, but had not been taken seriously.
This is a low-key fast day. Work is not forbidden and fasting only occurs from sunrise to sunset. It is important, however, to examine one's relationship with God while fasting and repent for sins which come to mind.
Prayer should always be part of a Fast Day.
There are only two holidays that fall on the 10th day of any month. This one and Yom Kippur -Day Of Atonement. Both are fast days.
Sometimes a special prayer for the dead is said (kaddish). This is for those who have died but the date of the death is unknown (Like in the Holocaust). You can read about Holicaust Day, a holiday dedicated to the Holocaust. Usually kaddish is said on ones anniversary of their death by remaining loved ones. This is sometimes referred to as "the day of general Kaddish" (mourners prayer). Read about Holicaust Day, a holiday dedicated to the Holocaust.
The 10th day of Tevet never falls on the Sabbath so fasting is always permitted.
Sometimes this holiday is also associated (on a sad note) with the Torah being translated from Hebrew to Greek.
This holiday is a man made fast day and is not directly tied to the Messiah. However, on a prophetic note, Ezekiel the prophet did try to warn Israel, and they did not listen. There have been other times in history when Israel did not listen to God's voice as He spoke through a prophet. For most of Israel, this includes the voice of Jesus, although God has always kept a Jewish remnant in touch with His will.
Although this holiday focuses on the Jerusalem's capture leading up to the Babylonian captivity that Jeremiah prophesied about, the Lord used that captivity to reveal to the prophet Daniel that the captivity was nearing its 70 year end. He then told Daniel the about the Messiah's death and the final Abomination Of Desolation. For more on this prophecy telling when Messiah would be cut off from His people and it's fulfillment please read The Daniel 9:24-27 Prophecy.
Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:16-18).
Sometimes this is considered the easiest fast day because of the short period of time one has to physically go without food. Because it falls near the winter solstice, sunrise to sunset is a short period of time. This makes this fast day the "shortest" day. Also, since it is in the winter, heat and dehydration are not so much of an issue.
The Talmud teaches that the First Temple was destroyed because of three [evil] things which prevailed there: idolatry, immorality, bloodshed. It teaches the Second Temple was destroyed due to causeless hatred (Talmud-Mas. Yoma 9b).
The renowned Maimonides wrote in his Jewish Law Code, "The essential significance of the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, as well as that of the other fast days, is not primarily the grief and mourning which they evoke. Their aim is rather to awaken the hearts towards repentance; to recall to us, both the evil deeds of our fathers, and our own evil deeds, which caused anguish to befall both them and us and thereby to cause us to return towards the good."
If you know of someone fasting on this day, one of the appropriate greetings would be "I hope you have an easy fast" (Tzome Khal). From another perspective, a new greeting, "I hope you don't have an easy fast" is emerging. The thinking behind this greeting is that the fast should not be easy but challenging, so that it can serve its purpose (of reminding us that we are dependant upon God) to the fullest.
For a list of future holidays dates check the Master Calendar Table.
Find out more about Fast Days observed in the Jewish Religion:
A light fast could be accompanied by discussion as to why God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take over Jerusalem.
1). Arutz 7 Daily News 12/20/2007.
The Feast of Israel by Bruce Scott of Friends of Israel ministries.