I glanced at the clock on the wall and breathed a sigh of relief. The work week at my Jewish holiday PR company was coming to a close. Chanukah had been over for exactly a week and no new cleints were due for a couple of months. I was about to pack up to go home, but then I heard a knock on my door.
“Sorry, we’re closed.” I called out. “Come back next week,”
The door opened and a familiar-looking figure entered.
“I hate to bother you, Mr. Sredni, but I really need your help.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”
“Yes. You handled my case last year at this time. My name is Tevet – Asarah B. Tevet.”
“Mr. Tevet, of course I remember you. Have a seat.”
He pulled up a chair and sat down. I shuffled through the papers on my desk until I found his file and started to read it.
“Let me see if I remember your case. You are a Jewish fast day – not one of the major 25-hour ones like Yom Kippur or Tisha B’Av- but one of those minor fast days observed by not eating or drinking from dawn to nightfall. Is that right?”
“Yes,” he nodded. “In fact, because I fall during the winter time, in December or January, I am the shortest fast day of the year, barely 12 hours long.”
“I see. And it says here in your file that the fasting is to remember the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia that began on the 10th of Tevet and ultimately culminated in the destruction of the First Temple.”
“Exactly. But the reason I came to you is -”
“Hold on, Mr. Tevet.” I said. “It says here in my report that I came to your rescue last year. Would you mind reminding me how I did that.”
“Well, you see each year my workplace WIZO holds a festive “Boker Tarbut”, a cultural morning at Cinema City for all the employees at which they serve a nice breakfast, present awards to outstanding workers of the year, and show an inspiring film (the year prior it was Best Picture Oscar-winner “Green Book”). So, last year the event was going to be held in December, then it was moved to January 7th. And as soon as I got the “Save the Date” email about the date change I picked up a pen to write it down on my Snoopy mouse pad desk calendar. On the calendar it said in Hebrew on that date “Tzom Asara B’Tevet” (10th of Tevet Fast Day) which is me! After double checking, I sent an email reply to the people in charge at the HR division and informed them that the day they selected was a minor Jewish fast day and asked if they could please move the event to a different date.”
“Oh, I am sure it was an honest mistake. Had this ever happened before?”
“It did happen before, albeit to a buddy of mine named Tisha B. Av at a different company where they were also arranging a movie day (also at Cinema City) for workers and the date they selected turned out to be the day Tisha B. Av, which is a very major and well-known fast day, was observed. Tisha sent the organizers a quick email about the conflict and they immediately rescheduled it for another day.”
“So, the same thing happened here?”
“Not exactly. I waited a couple of days but got no reply. I decided to poke my head into HR and they replied that they got my email, they appreciated my dilemma, but they were not sure they would be able to move the event to a different day. They even suggested that perhaps I attend only part of the event – the non-eating part I guess – but that nothing was finalized yet. I went back to my desk hopeful it would work out, but after a short while I received an email apology from HR saying they were unable to move the event to another date, but hoped I would still take part. Less than an hour later the official invite for January 7th, the same date as my day, the Fast of the 10th of Tevet, was sent to everyone.”
“It sounds pretty bad. Is that all?”
“No, there is one more thing I forgot to tell you. There is an added significance to 10th of Tevet. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel chose to observe the Tenth of Tevet as a “general kaddish day” (yom hakaddish ha’klalli) to allow the relatives of victims of the Holocaust and whose yahrzeits (anniversaries of their deaths) are unknown, to observe the traditional yahrtzeit practices for the deceased, including lighting a memorial candle, learning mishnayot and reciting the kaddish on my day. A special memorial prayer is also recited in synagogues.”
“So, what happened?”
“That’s when I turned to you. You knew that there was a rabbi on staff. He is in charge of the kashrut supervision at all the WIZO day care centers across Israel and he sells the chametz of the organization each year before Pesach, and you thought he would be the right person to bring this to the attention of.You emailed him (he was unaware of the confilct) and he looked into it and the very next morning an email from HR was sent to all workers that the event had been moved from January 7th to January 9th due the 7th being “The Fast of the 10th of Tevet and Yom Hakadish Haklali for the Holocaust”.
“Yes, now I remember. I am so glad I could be of help to you, Mr. Tevet. I am proud to have been able to fight to protect your honor. You are sort of like the Rodney Dangerfield of Jewish fast days – you get no respect. But this year I am sure because of the Coronavirus restrictions you have no issues of public gatherings on your day, right?
“Yes, that’s true, but I do have a scheduling issue.”
“A scheduling issue? What do you mean? When does the Tenth of Tevet fall this year.
“On a Friday.”
“On a Friday?! You mean you’re the only Jewish fast day that can ever fall on a Friday? When was the last time that happened?”
“2013. And then next one is in three years from now and then a couple of years after that.”
“Ok. So, it falls on a Friday. What’s the deal with that? You do all your regular shabbat preperations but you just can’t eat or drink till Shabbat begins?”
“Not exactly. You can only eat after you make Friday night kiddush, a little after 5pm.”
“Ok, I can live with that. We’ll put out a press release about that. We’ll tell rabbis to postpone their Friday night sermons to Shabbat morning so people can go home and break their fast on kiddush wine without delay.”
“Probably best to write ‘grape juice’ instead as it is not good to drink wine after fasting all day.
“Right. Ok, so you fall on a Friday, but no other major things are going on that will hinder any press coverage right? I mean in Israel you have another round of elections coming up and they have a third lockdown starting in just a couple of days, but we can probably get you some press so that people will know it’s the 10th of Tevet. Anything else?”
“Well, it falls on the 25th this year – the 25th of December.”
“WHAT?! You’re kiling me, Tevet. Killing me! How can you expect people to know about your fast day if you fall on a Friday AND on Christmas when everyone is covering Christmas, election and COVID-19 lockdown stories. Forget it. I’m sorry. I can’t help you.”
“Are you sure? Is there anything at all you can do?”
“For a minor Jewish fast day that falls on Friday, December 25th? Look, I’ve been working in the Jewish holiday PR business for a long time, but you my friend are screwed.”
“Nothing at all?”
“Look, we can play up the siege angle. I mean in Israel and in London and other places around the world people are in or going towards lockdown because of the Coronavirus. So maybe they really are starting to understand what it means to be under siege and not able to leave their homes.”
“Ok, but it sounds kind of weak.”
“Hey, you came to me the day before your fast day which falls on a Friday AND on December 25th and that’s what you get. Maybe next year you’ll be smart and fall in the middle of the week in mid-December or early January or something.”
“Ok. I’ll try. Can you get me any press coverage at all?”
“Look, my nephew Yonatan is a pretty good writer and maybe he could do a write-up on The Times of Israel. What do you think about that?”
“That would be great. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem, Tevet. And if he forgets, no big deal – you’ll be over in 12 hours anyway.”