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TISHA B'AV GUIDE

Compiled by Rabbi Pinchas Allouche

 

INTRODUCTION 

"Five misfortunes befell our fathers on the ninth of Av. On the ninth of Av it was decreed that our fathers should not enter the [Promised] Land, the Temple was destroyed the first and second time, Bethar was captured and the city [Jerusalem] was ploughed up." 

- Mishna, tractate taanit 4:6  

Tisha B'Av, the Fast of the Ninth of Av, is a day of mourning which commemorates many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish nation throughout our history on this somber day, such as the following:  

  • The destruction of the first and second Temples (-both were destroyed on the ninth of Av, the first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE; the second by the Romans in 70 CE). 
  • The city of Bethar was conquered by the Romans in 135 CE, whereby at least 400,000 Jews were murdered.
  • The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.
  • World War 1, which began the downward slide to the Holocaust, also began on Tisha B'av.  

By carefully observing the laws and customs instituted by our Sages (see below), we are able to connect to our past in an essential manner, and renew our personal and collective effort to merit the building of the Third Temple.

 

THE DAY BEFORE TISHA B'AV 

Since the heart rejoices in the study of Torah, from midday some people refrain from learning topics other than what is relevant to Tisha B'Av or mourning. However, many people learn all topics of Torah until sunset. 

A mournful meal is conducted in the afternoon, just before the beginning of Tisha B'av. This meal is a one-course meal, and it typically consists of a hard-boiled egg, dipped in ashes that represent the destruction of the Jerusalem Temples, and some bread. Also, this meal is generally eaten alone, and it is customary to eat this meal seated on the floor or a low stool. 

All of the mournful customs below, begin at sunset.

  

TISHA B'AV NIGHT AND DAY 

Eating and Drinking 

  • All eating and drinking is forbidden. This includes rinsing the mouth and brushing teeth. Rinsing with mouthwash or brushing teeth without water is questionable.
  • Swallowing capsules or bitter tablets or liquid medicine without water is permitted.
  • The ill or elderly as well as pregnant and nursing women are required to fast even if it is difficult, unless a doctor says that fasting may injure health, in which case a competent rabbi should be consulted. 
  • A woman within seven days of childbirth may not fast, and within thirty days should not fast.
  • Boys up to twelve years old and girls up to eleven are not required to fast the entire day. There are various opinions as to whether they should fast part of the day.
  • Those not required to fast should eat only what is needed to preserve their health.  

Bathing and Washing 

  • All bathing for pleasure is prohibited even in cold water including the hands, face and feet.
  • Ritual washing upon waking, after using the bathroom, touching covered parts of the body or before praying is permitted, but only up to the knuckles.
  • One may wash dirty or sullied portions of the body (including cleaning the eyes of glutinous material), and if necessary may use soap or warm water to remove the dirt or odor.
  • Washing for cooking or for medical reasons is permitted.
  • A woman may not immerse in the Mikvah on Tisha B'Av since relations are prohibited. Washing to commence the clean days is permitted.

Anointing

  • Anointing for pleasure is prohibited including oil, soap, alcohol, cream, ointment, perfume, etc.
  • Anointing for medical reasons is permitted, as well as using deodorant to remove bad odor

Marital Relations

 

  • Since cohabitation is prohibited, a husband and wife should not come in contact during the night of Tisha B'Av.

 

Wearing Leather Shoes

  • Even shoes made partially of leather are prohibited. Shoes made of cloth, rubber or plastic are permitted.
  • One need not incur ridicule of non-Jews because of this prohibition. Therefore if a permitted substitute not were found, one may wear leather shoes. He should deprive himself of comfort by placing sand in the shoes and must remove them when they are no longer needed.
  • Wearing leather shoes is permitted for medical reasons. 

Learning Torah

  • Since the heart rejoices in the study of Torah, it is prohibited to learn topics other than those relevant to Tisha B'Av or mourning.  
  • One may learn: Lamentations with its midrash and commentaries, portions of the Prophets that deal with tragedy or destruction, the third chapter of Moed Katan (which deals with mourning), the story of the destruction (in the Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 56b-58a, Sanhedrin 104, and in Josephus), and the halachot of Tisha B'Av and mourning. 

 

Adittional Restrictions

  • One should deprive himself of some comfort in sleep. Some reduce the number of pillows, some sleep on the floor. Pregnant women, the elderly and the ill are exempt.
  • Sitting on a normal chair is forbidden until midday. One may sit on a low bench or chair, or on a cushion on the floor.
  • Greeting someone with "good morning" and the like is prohibited. One who is greeted should answer softly and, if possible, inform the person of the prohibition.
  • One should not give a gift except to the needy.
  • Things that divert one from mourning such as idle talk, reading the newspaper, taking a walk for pleasure, etc. are prohibited.
  • Smoking is prohibited until afternoon, and then only for one who is compelled to and in private.
  • The custom is to refrain until midday from any time-consuming work that diverts one from mourning. In a case of financial loss, consult a competent rabbi.  

Prayer

  • Tefillin are not worn at Shacharit, nor is a blessing made on tzitzit. At Mincha, the tallit gadol and tefillin are worn and while reciting their respective blessings. 
  • At Mincha, the prayers Nacheim and Aneinu are added to the Amidah Prayer during the blessing "Veliyerushalayim" and "Shma Koleinu" respectively. " If one forgot them and completed that bracha, he need not repeat the prayer.

THE DAY AFTER TISHA B'AV  

  • The custom is to sanctify the new moon the night after Tisha B'Av, preferably after having eaten something. 
  • The limitations of the "Nine Days", which include not shaving or getting a haircut, and the prohibition to drink wine and eat meat, continue until midday of the 10th of Av, since the destruction of the Temples took place on this day also. 

In the merit of mourning properly over Jerusalem, may we be rewarded speedily to rejoice in its rebuilding!

 

Mon, October 16 2017 26 Tishrei 5778