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Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning and repentance on which we recall the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and other tragic events in Jewish history that took place on this day. By carefully observing the laws and customs instituted by our Sages, we are able to feel the full impact of what we have lost. We also come to contemplate the individual and national shortcomings, which have prolonged our exile, and renew our personal and collective effort to merit the building of the Third Temple.
If a brit or redemption of the first-born occurs on the day before Tisha B’Av, if meat is being served the meal must be held before noon.Since the heart rejoices in the study of Torah, from noon 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.Since Tisha B’Av is called a moed(holiday or appointed day, Lamentations 1:15), no tachanun is said at mincha in the afternoon before Tisha B’Av (nor on Tisha B’Av itself).The custom is to eat a final meal after mincha and before sunset, consisting of only one type of food which could be accompanied by vegetables and different kinds of fruits some have a custom of eating bread, cold hard-boiled eggs and water( for more details on what’s considered one type of food please ask a Rav) . The meal is eaten while seated on the ground, and no mezumen is said in the blessing after the meal.After the meal, one may sit normally until sunset. Shoes may be worn all day until sunset.
When Shabbat is the Day Before Tisha B’Av is Observed
One may eat normal Shabbat meals but must end the third meal before sunset. Eating with company other than one’s family should be avoided, but a mezumen is said. Tzidkatcha is not said at mincha.When a brit occurs on this Shabbat, the meal should take place before mincha.Some restrict Torah learning as above, but many are lenient because of Shabbat. Normally one waits at home until nightfall, says baruch hamavdil, changes from Shabbat clothing and then goes to synagogue. Since customs and situations vary, it is advisable to consult a local rabbi. Attah Chonantanu is recited as usual in the evening prayer. However, the customary Havdallah is not said. Rather, the blessing over seeing candlelight is recited after the evening prayer and before reading Lamentations. After Tisha B’Av, Havdallah is recited over a cup of wine (or grape juice) or beer but no spices are used.
Eating and Drinking
All eating and drinking is forbidden. This includes rinsing the mouth and brushing teeth, except in a case of great distress. 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 affect their health, in which case a competent rabbi should be consulted(in years that Tisha B’Av falls on shabbat and is pushed off to Sunday, it is much more lenient for pregnant and nursing woman and one should consult a competent Rav). A woman within seven days of childbirth may not fast, and within thirty days is allowed not to 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 on Tisha B’Av since relations are prohibited. Washing to commence the clean days is permitted.
Anointing for pleasure is prohibited including oil, alcohol, cream, ointment, perfume, etc.Anointing for medical reasons is permitted, as well as using deodorant to remove bad odor.
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.
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 midrashand 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 Gittin 56b-58a, Sanhedrin 104, and in Josephus), and the halachot of Tisha B’Av and mourning.
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.
Our Ashkenazi brethren do not wear tefillin at Shacharit, nor is a blessing made on tzitzit. At Mincha, tefillin is worn and those who wear a tallit gadol make the blessing then.Some Sefaradim (according to the kabbalah and the minhag in Jerusalem) wear the tallit and tefillin at Shacharit as usual. Others wear tefillin publicly only during Mincha. When in doubt, one should consult a Rav. In all the prayers Nacheim and Aneinu are added to the Shmonah Esrei during the blessing “Bone Yerushalayim” and “Shma Koleinu” respectively. If one forgot them and completed that bracha, he need not repeat the prayer.
When Tisha B’Av was observed on Sunday, Havdallah is recited over a cup of wine (or grape juice) or beer but no spices are used.When this Sunday was the 10th of Av (for example the 9th was Shabbat and observance of Tisha B’Av was postponed to Sunday the 10th), haircuts, laundering and bathing are permitted Sunday night, the 11th of Av. However, it’s better if meat and wine are not consumed until Monday morning.The custom is to sanctify the new moon the night after Tisha B’Av, preferably after having eaten something. When Tisha B’Av is on Thursday, the custom is to wait until Saturday night when the service can be said with greater joy.
In the merit of mourning properly over Jerusalem, may we be rewarded to rejoice in its rebuilding!