Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tisha BeAv

The Fast of the Ninth of Av

"On the Ninth of Av it was decreed on our fathers that they would not enter the Land (of Israel) [(BaMidbar (Numbers) 14], the Temple was destroyed [both] the first time and the second time, Beitar (the stronghold of the Bar Kochba rebellion) was captured, and the city (of Jerusalem) was plowed under."Talmud Taanit 4

As the anniversary of the most tragic events in Jewish history, the Ninth of Av is the most important day of mourning in the Jewish year. Other than Yom Kippur, it is the only fast day in the year that lasts a full night and day. All other fasts begin in the morning and end that night. Tisha BeAv begins at sundown and continues till the following nightfall. Tisha BeAv carries several additional prohibitions that are not required by the other fasts.

The following is a list of the basic prohibitions on Tisha BeAv.
We are forbidden to eat or drink anything for the entire period. Anyone who has health problems with fasting should consult a rabbi.
It is forbidden to wash oneself, even just one finger. The only exception is the required washing upon rising in the morning and after using the bathroom. Even in these cases we may only wash until the knuckles. If one has soiled his hands he is permitted to clean the soiled area only.
It is forbidden to wear shoes made with leather.
Marital relations are forbidden.
With several exceptions, one may not study Torah on Tisha BeAv because the study of Torah brings joy. The exceptions are the book of Eichah (Lamentations), the book of Iyov (Job), the "bad" passages in Yirmiyah (Jeremiah) omitting the passages of consolation, and various Talmudic and Midrashic passages which deal with the destruction of the Holy Temples and with the laws of mourning. Even in these cases we are not permitted to study in depth.
We are not permitted to greet each other on Tisha BeAv, even to say good morning. If one encounters someone who is unaware of this law and greets you, it is best to tell him the law so he will not resent your non-response. If this is not possible then one should respond in a low voice and with a somber manner.
The night of Tisha BeAv and the following day until noon we sit on the ground or on a low stool.
It is best to avoid work on Tisha BeAv until noon.
One should not go for pleasurable walks or engage in any other activity that might distract from the mourning.

The Day Before
Although the fast itself does not begin until nightfall, certain aspects of the mourning of Tisha BeAv begin earlier. From noon and on it is best to refrain from Torah study in the same manner that one must on Tisha BeAv itself. Many authorities are lenient on this. Certainly one should not engage in frivolous activity but should prepare himself for the upcoming fast.
It is customary to eat a meal before Mincha (afternoon prayers). This meal carries no restrictions. It is customary to eat well at this meal in preparation for the fast, but care must be taken not to overeat so that one can eat the Seudah HaMafseket comfortably. Tachanun is not recited during Mincha.
After the Mincha prayers it is customary to eat the last meal. This meal is called the Seudah HaMafseket (Separating Meal). It is forbidden to eat more than one cooked food at this meal. (Cooked includes any form of cooking even roasted, fried, or pickled.) Meat, wine and fish are forbidden. Intoxicating drinks should be completely avoided.
The meal is eaten sitting on the ground or a low seat. It is customary to eat a hardboiled egg (which serves as the cooked food). It is also customary to eat a piece of bread dipped into ashes and say, "This is the Tisha BeAv meal."
During the meal three men should not sit together so they will not have to recite the Birchat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) as a group. If they do eat together they still do not form a group.
When the eve of Tisha BeAv falls out on Shabbat, then none of these restrictions apply.

Tisha BeAv Night
All of the prohibitions of Tisha BeAv begin at sundown. It is therefore necessary to remove one's leather shoes shortly before sundown.
It is customary to remove the Paroches (curtain) from the Aron Hakodesh (Holy Ark) in the synagogue before Maariv (evening prayers). It is also customary to turn off the main lights in the synagogue and to pray by candlelight.
After Maariv is completed, the book of Eichah (Lamentations) is read aloud to the congregation. After Eichah is completed, the congregation recites Kinot, prayers of lamentation.
It is proper for a person to sleep in a less comfortable manner than he is accustomed to. If he usually sleeps with two pillows then he should sleep with only one. Some have to custom to sleep on the ground on the night of Tisha BeAv and to rest their head on a stone.

Tisha BeAv Day
At Shacharit (morning prayers) on Tisha BeAv morning, talit and tefillin are not worn. (They are worn during Mincha instead.) The small tzitzit is still worn but no blessing is recited. Tachanun is not recited. The Torah is taken out and the portion of Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:25-40 is read and the haftarah from Yeshayah (Isaiah) 8:13 - 9:23.
After the Torah reading the congregation recites Kinot. This should last till a little before noon. After Kinot the prayers are completed. Lamenatzeach and the second verse of Uvo LeTzion are skipped. Some do not say Shir Shel Yom now but wait till Mincha.
It is proper for every person to read the book of Eichah again. After the hour of noon it is permissible to sit on an ordinary seat. At Mincha we don talit and tefillin. The Torah is taken out and the standard portion and haftarah for fast days is read.
During Shemoneh Esrei the following prayer is inserted in the blessing of VeLeYerushalayim Ircha:
G-d our God, console the mourners of Zion and the mourners of Jerusalem, and the city that is mournful, destroyed, shamed, and desolate. Mournful without her children, destroyed without her residences, shamed without her honor, and desolate without inhabitant. She sits with her head covered, like a barren woman who does not give birth. She has been devoured by the legions, and conquered by the worshipers of foreign powers, and they put your people, Israel, to the sword and willfully murdered the devout [servants] of the High One. Therefore Zion cries bitterly, and Jerusalem raises her voice, "My heart! My heart [aches] on the slain! My stomach! My stomach [aches] on the slain!" For You, G-d, with fire you burned her, and with fire you will rebuild her, as it is said, "And I will be for her, says G-d, a wall of fire around her, and I will be a glory within her."(Zechariah 2:9) Blessed are You, G-d, Who consoles Zion and builds Jerusalem.
The Night After Tisha BeAv
Tisha BeAv ends at night fall. This time is sometime after sundown (roughly an hour). Even though the fast ends that night, it is proper to not eat meat or bathe until noon the following day. This is because the Temple continued to burn into the tenth day.

Shabbat and Tisha BeAv
When the Ninth of Av falls out on Shabbat then the fast is postponed till Sunday. In such a case one need not abstain from meat and bathing the following day, but should still do so the following night.