Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, the Righteous Judge. (Traditional Prayer)
The month of Tevet is one of the darker, lowly months of the year. It is the month in which the siege of Jerusalem began which ended in the destruction of the First Temple. Asarah b'Tevet, the tenth of Tevet is kept as a fast day in commemoration of this horrific event. Almost to help ease the remembrance of such an event, we enter this month still in celebration of the Holy One's victory through the Maccabees over the Greeks during Hanukkah. So, on the one hand we recall His righteous judgment, but on the other we remember His merciful victory.
This combination of mercy and judgment occur throughout the Scriptures and, indeed, our lives. We experience both. It is part and parcel of the Holy One's economy. Every one of us has experienced great victories and great defeats. Our greatest defeats occur when we try to satisfy the desires of our flesh, our yetzer hara ("evil inclination"). Our greatest victories happen when we have surrendered our very selves to the service of our great King and we are, as Paul states, to walk in the spirit, our yetzer hatov ("good inclination"). Finally this dichotomy of mercy and judgment is exemplified through the salvific work of our God through Messiah. That is, all are destined to stand before the judgment seat, but those that have trusted in his Messiah will receive mercy.
As we remember this month the tragedy that befell Israel, let us also recall that it was the Father's faithfulness and lovingkindness to the covenant people that brought Israel back from the exile. Similarly we can trust that he will be with each of us through our daily struggles and our walk. He is even there to help us when we turn back to him after our failings. Through a process of maturing growth (a.k.a. sanctification) we fail less frequently as we are transformed in mind and conformed in life to the image of his dear Son. This results in ever-increasing victorious living, because instead of living for one's self, one lives more and more for the Father's kingdom.
Just as the Jewish people were never left alone neither were they forgotten in the exile, Messiah Yeshua has promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us. This will enable us to go on to confidently say that the Lord is our helper, and that we will not fear (paraphrased from Hebrews 13:5-6). We will trust that even through calamitous events, that the Lord will work it out ultimately for our good (Romans 8:28).
As we enter the month of Tevet, we would do well to remember when and where we have been defeated, but only if we remember the great victory of Messiah. The difference between the two polar opposites helps to demonstrate the awesome work that has and is being done in each of our lives.
Finally, we look forward to the time when full restoration is accomplished. Not only are our lives completely changed, but all of our prayers will have been answered. But until then we continue to pray and to bless the Holy One.
Blessed are You, Hashem, Who restores His presence to Zion. (Traditional Prayer)