The Day Before Tisha B’Av
During the afternoon of the Eighth of Av, it is customary to eat a large meal, to prepare for the fast. Late in the afternoon, shortly before the fast begins, one eats the seudah hamafseket, or the pre-fast meal, which is eaten by oneself. A traditional meal would include stale bread dipped in ashes, hardboiled egg to symbolize mourning, and water. The meal is eaten while sitting on the floor or on a low stool, and is eaten alone, without sitting with others.
(If Erev Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, it is pushed off till Sunday, the 10th of Av. We do not eat the traditional pre-9 Av meal of eggs and bread dipped in ashes. In such a case, the fast begins at sundown, before Shabbat ends.)
Practices on the Fast of Tisha B’Av
- The Fast of 9 Av begins at sunset. See times on calendar.
- There are 5 restrictions on 9 Av in observance of our mourning:
- Eating and drinking
- Bathing, except to remove specific dirt (e.g., material in one’s eyes after awaking). When one wakes in the morning, before praying, and after relieving oneself, only the fingers are washed, not the whole hand.
- Wearing leather shoes.
- Marital relations.
- Learning Torah, because learning Torah brings joy. However, the parts of the Torah that are relevant to Tisha B’Av may be studied: the book of Lamentations (Eicha) and its commentaries, the book of Job and its commentaries, the Laws of Mourning, and certain parts of the Talmud.
- Other mourning practices:
- sitting on a low stool or the floor from Erev Tisha B’Av (when the fast begins) until midday of Tisha B’Av
- refraining from distracting labor or work, unless it will result in a financial loss
- refraining from greeting each other, offering gifts, chatting, and other leisure activities
- The fast ends after nightfall, which is the 10th of Av.
- We wait to completely lift our mourning practices (e.g., to get haircuts, wash clothes, bathe, eat meat, drink wine) until midday on the 10th of Av, because the Second Temple burned until midday on 10 Av.
Selected Aspects of Tisha B’Av Prayers and Services
- The lights are kept dim, and the services are said in a low voice, in memory of the Divine Presence leaving the Temple
- The book of Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah is read at night and during the morning services
- Kinnot, elegiac poems, are read at night and in the morning services
- The morning Torah reading is from Deuteronomy and the Haftarah is from the book of Jeremiah, which deal with the sins of Israel, her exile, and the resultant desolation.
- There is also an afternoon Torah reading from Exodus, and a haftarah from the prophet Isaiah.
- Tallis and Tefillin reflect the glory of the Jewish peoplee, so they are not worn until Mincha (afternoon) services, as some of the mourning practices are lifted.
Events on Tisha B’Av Throughout Jewish History
- destruction of the First Beit HaMikdash (Temple) on the 9th of Av, 3338 (586 BCE)
- the fire was set which destroyed the Second Beit HaMikdash (Temple) on 9 Av 3830 (70 CE). The fire burned through 10 Av
- 135 CE: bar Kochba’s revolt and the massacre of 100,000 Jews at Betar
- The Temple was plowed under by Turnus Rufus, a Roman general.
- 1290 – King Edward I of England issued order of expulsion for Jews of England
- 1492 – The Spanish Inquisition – Jews of Spain were expelled
- WWI began on Tisha B’Av (the “fires were set” for the Holocaust)
- 1942 – Warsaw Ghetto liquidation began with deportations to Treblinka
Adapted from The Book of Our Heritage by R’ Eliyahu Kitov.