Tomorrow is the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, a fast day that commemorates the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 587 BCE. Originally, the two preceding days were also days of fasting. While the reasons for the fast of 9 Tevet are shrouded in mystery, the fast of 8 Tevet (in Yiddish, khes Teyves) mourns the composition of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible produced in the 3rd or 2nd century BCE—according to legend, by a group of 70 Jewish elders. In the ancient world, the Septuagint made the Tanakh accessible to Greek-speaking Jews, such as the Alexandrian philosopher Philo, as well as to Gentiles—early Christians among them.
The fast of 8 Tevet was a subject of particular fascination to Rabbi Moses Schreiber (a/k/a the Chasam Sofer), a sage of tremendous erudition and an early pioneer of Orthodoxy, who spent much effort combating the early phases of Reform Judaism and the inroads of modernity. Elli Fischer—a translator of Hebrew books by profession—discusses the history of this day, and why it held such attraction to Schreiber. (Audio, 46 minutes.)