Our sages say in tractate taanit “Rabbi Akiva says anyone who works on tisha Baav will never see blessing and the sages say anyone who works on tisha Baav and does not mourn Jerusalem will never see its joy as it says Issiah “Rejoice Jerusalem and take delight those who love and mourn Jerusalem.” From here they said anyone who mourns Jerusalem will merit to see its joy and whoever does not mourn will not see its joy.”
The aim of the fast is to be busy with repentance ,mourning the temple, learning stories about the destruction with explanations, stories from the holocaust etc. The aim is not to pass the time as quickly as possible through non-essential work, sleeping, watching movies (not related to destruction/negative history). It is worthy for our temple that we devote at least one day even at the cost of losing a free day and obviously it is not appropriate to use the days for catching up on tasks which have accumulated over time.
It is permitted and appropriate to spend the day learning topics of the day, for example Megillat Eichah, stories about the destruction with explanations, stories from the holocaust etc. Moreover, many allow any study of torah which is non-related to tisha Baav and it is definitely preferable to learn any torah that causes joy than to read newspapers or do things unrelated to the fast.
It is not enough to only “say” kinot but to mourn through the kinot. In order to achieve this, one should prepare before by studying the kinot such as explanations and sources so that one should understand the content and will be able to connect to the pain and tragedy that is the background of the kinot. It is better to say a few with intention and concentration than many without intention. Moreover one should not turn the kinot into a chase after the chazzan and a competition for fast reading.
One should not engage in light-hearted conversation and joking or conversations about joyful topics and everyday topics. One should not plan trips or events during the fast or engage in any unrelated activity focusing on the wood rather than the trees.
According to the mishna in tractate Taanit should not eat more than one dish in this meal. This meal should be modest and small, in sadness and in low spirits. Therefore it is the custom to eat the large meal before the seudah mafseket, to be interrupted by mincha and then to eat the seudah mafseket. In any event, one should not end the previous meal with grace after meals and then immediately eat the seudah mafseket which would cause an unnecessary blessing – one should make a clear break between the 2 meals and try to eat the first meal as early as possible
- During the pre-fast meal before the Seuda Hamafseket one should not fill themselves up completely so that one may eat the Seuda Hamafseket in a respectable manner.
- It is customary to eat an egg with a bit of ash in memory of the mourning and destruction. The egg is considered a cooked food item and therefore one should not eat a second cooked food in addition.
- One should have bread with the egg so that the Seuda Hamafseket can be considered a meal.
- Coffee and tea are permitted as they are not considered cooked foods.
- Baked goods are permitted since they are not considered cooked dishes, but one ought to refrain from delicacies that add pleasure to the meal.
- One should not eat condiments that enhance the Sueuda Hamafseket (such as ketchup or drinks such as beer) but during the meal prior to Seuda Hamafseket one may include them and eat in a normal manner.
- During the Seuda Hamafseket one should sit on the floor. However a woman who recently gave birth or who is pregnant, as well as someone who is sick or elderly, is exempt.
- In order to avoid Zimmun, the eaters should sit down separately.
It is permitted to snack after the Seuda Hamafseket until sundown but it is recommended that one stipulate your intention to do so. None the less if one forgot to do so, one may still eat (unless one has specifically stipulated not to continue to eat).
Individuals Who Are Ill, Women Who Are Pregnant, Nursing, or Recently Gave Birth
A woman who has given birth within the last 30 days is exempt from fasting unless she is certain that she is capable of doing do. Even if she cannot it is best for her to try to fast until morning. If she began fasting and feels weak, she should break her fast.
A pregnant woman fasts. But if there arises any possibility of illness related to the fast such as excessive weakness, unusual dizziness, heart rate, blood pressure or fever that might be associated with the fast, there is room to be lenient and eat especially in the early months of the pregnancy. In all similar cases it is desirable to consult a Rav when possible but one should not be stringent and risk the pregnancy if one cannot find a Rav.
A nursing mother fasts. However if she cannot produce enough milk or there is a risk that she will not, she may eat and drink in the amount sufficient to lactate properly. As stated above, it is best to consult a Rav. None the less, it is not necessary to substitute baby formula in order to continue the fast.
A sick person who experiences difficulty fasting may eat and drink as much as they feel they require, even if they are not bedridden. However the average headache or upset stomach is not a sufficient reason to break the fast.
It is permitted to take pills and tablets. If one required water to swallow, one should use no more than the minimal amount required to swallow (and it is suggested to add something bitter to the water to prevent deriving any pleasure from it).
In all situations where it is permitted to eat or drink, one is permitted to exceed the amount (shiur) halachically prohibited. None the less one should eat only the amount sufficient for one to regain their strength and continue the fast to the degree possible. There is no halachic concept “breaking the fast”. And certainly one should not eat any delicacies.
- It is customary to remove the Parochet from the Aron Kodesh for Tisha B’Av night and hang it again before Mincha during the day.
- Maariv: After Shmone Esrei we say Kaddish Titkabel followed by Eicha, Kinot, V’Ata Kadosh (Uva L’Tzion), followed by Kadish Shalem (without Titkabel).
- Shacharit: We do not say pitum haktoret or Korbanot except for Koran Tamid and the Thirteen Midot
- There Kohanim do not Duchen
- Tzizit: There is a question as to whether one should recite the bracha on Tzizit in the morning so it would be good to sleep with one’s tzizit on.
- It has become the practice not to kiss one’s Tzitzit during Baruch SheAmar and Sh’ma.
- Mincha: The proper custom is to recite Kriat Sh’ma in one’s T’phillin ( Even though the Mishna B’rura cautions that it should not seem like one is learning Torah, many Acharonim have written that it is not of great concern since one’s intention is to fulfill the mitzvah of T’phillin).
- Nacheim: When one gets to the phrase “Ha’ir ha’chareiva v’ha’shomema” (“the city in mourning and destruction”), one should have the “place of the Beit Hamikdash” in mind where “foxes meandered” (“shualim hilchu bo”).
- It is not respectable to sit barefoot in shul (without socks) so those who are wearing slippers should not remove them.
- Kiddush L’Vana: If Tisha B’Av falls out on Thursday we wait until after Shabbat to say Kissush LeVana so that it can be recited with joy and not Mourning.
Washing and Body Care
- Washing to remove dirt is permitted in that area only.
- Netilat Yadayim is permitted until the knuckles.
- While cleaning food or washing dishes in preparation for the break fast (after midday of course) one should be careful not to use hot water.
- Rinsing one’s mouth is prohibited, however one may brush with a toothbrush without toothpaste and water and on condition that one does not swallow. One who suffers greatly can rinse with water without toothpaste but swallowing is not permitted nor should the water reach the throat.
- Perfumes and Deoderant: This is debated among the Acharonim and it is best to be stringent unless there is a great need. In any event, according to most of the Poskim, one can be lenient in the use of fragrances for the purpose of cleanliness only such as deodorants, since the halachic dispute is just regarding the issue of smelling fragrances and tobacco
A shoe is prohibited even if it is not made of leather but is covered with it (on top or on the side). One can be lenient if there is only a strip of leather not essential to the shoe structure.
Today when there is no major difference between shoes made of leather or other material, there is no room to be lenient when it comes to the ill or a women who recently gave birth unless there is great need.
Prohibition of Working
- One should not work before Chatzot HaYom (noon time) unless it is absolutely necessary. Work (“Melacha”) for this purpose is defined as something that takes a long time and distracts you from mourning on Tisha B’av, but work that is brief, such as tying a knot, lighting candles etc. is permitted.
- Working to avoid a substantial loss is permitted.
- Cooking food to eat after the fast is permitted after Chatzot HaYom.
- Smoking is permitted after Chatzot HaYom, but ideally one shouldn’t smoke on this day since the verse says “You should be very careful with your souls” and therefore one shouldn’t do anything that is unhealthy.
Additional Mourning Customs
It is customary not to sit on chairs or benches until after Chatzot HaYom just as people in mourning do. It is permissible to sit on a low bench, and it is preferable to sit on something rather than directly on the ground (from Kabbalistic sources). However, for pregnant women or someone who is sick (especially if he suffers from back problems), it is permissible to sit on a chair as usual.
It is customary to suffer some deprivation even when you sleep; for instance if you usually sleep with two pillows then sleep with one.
It is customary not to greet anyone, including saying “Good Morning”. If one is greeted, one can answer quietly and explain to those who don’t know that one should not greet anyone.
One should not go to the cemetery on Tisha B’av (from Kabbalistic sources).
Mourning on the 10th of Av
- On the 10th of Av the Beit Hamikdash was burned, and therefore certain mourning customs are continued until noon on the 10th of Av.
- One should not eat meat or drink wine until after Chatzot HaYom, although meat based foods such as soup are permitted.
- One should not wear new clothes since one should not say the Bracha of “Shehecheyanu”.
- One should refrain from listening to music until after Chatzot HaYom.
- Laundry, haircuts, shaving, and washing – If Tisha B’av falls on a Thursday, then one may do these activities from the morning of the 10th onwards in honor of Shabbat. Many Poskim state that these activities can even be done on the evening of the 10th so long as these activities are to prepare for Shabbat. Therefore, one should not wash regular weekday clothes until after noon.
Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth is the Executive Director of Beit Hillel and the Rav of Congregation Ohel Ari in Ra’anana. He served as Director of the Overseas Department of Tzohar and as the Rabbi of Bnei Akiva of North America. He also served as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and is a former captain in the Israeli Navy Special Forces.
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