Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av (Jul. 21-22, 2018), is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, on which we fast, deprive ourselves and pray. It is the culmination of the Three Weeks, a period of time during which we mark the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
What Happened on 9 Av
- The year is 1313 BCE. The Israelites are in the desert, recently having experienced the miraculous Exodus, and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. But first they dispatch a reconnaissance mission to assist in formulating a prudent battle strategy. The spies return on the eighth day of Av and report that the land is unconquerable. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cry. They insist that they’d rather go back to Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites. G‑d is highly displeased by this public demonstration of distrust in His power, and consequently that generation of Israelites never enters the Holy Land. Only their children have that privilege, after wandering in the desert for another 38 years.
2. Both Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on this date. The First Temple was also destroyed on the 9th of Av (423 BCE). Five centuries later (in 69 CE), as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was destroyed the same day as the first.
3. Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans in 133 CE ended in defeat: When the Jews rebelled against Roman rule, they believed that their leader, Simon bar Kochba, would fulfill their messianic longings. But their hopes were cruelly dashed in 133 CE as the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in the final battle at Betar. The date of the massacre? Of course—the 9th of Av!
4. One year after their conquest of Betar, the Romans plowed over the Temple Mount, our nation’s holiest site.
5. The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE on, you guessed it, Tisha b’Av.
6. In 1492, the Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land. The edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country. The Hebrew date on which no Jew was allowed any longer to remain in the land where he had enjoyed welcome and prosperity? Oh, by now you know it—the 9th of Av.
Ready for just one more? World War II and the Holocaust, historians conclude, was actually the long drawn-out conclusion of World War I that began in 1914. And yes, amazingly enough, Germany declared war on Russia, effectively catapulting the First World War into motion, on the 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av.
What do you make of all this? Jews see this as another confirmation of the deeply held conviction that history isn’t haphazard; events – even terrible ones – are part of a Divine plan and have spiritual meaning. The message of time is that everything has a rational purpose, even though we don’t understand it.
How 9Av Is Observed
The fast begins at sunset of the 8th of Av and concludes at nightfall the following night. During this time, we do not
- eat or drink
- wear leather footwear
- bathe or wash ourselves (washing only until the knuckle when mandated by halachah)
- apply ointments or creams
- engage in marital relations or any form of intimacy
- sit on a normal-height chair until chatzot (the time when the sun has reached its apex)
- study Torah (except for the “sad” parts that deal with the destruction of the Temples, etc.)
- send gifts, or even greet one another (you may respond to greetings)
- engage in outings, trips or similar pleasurable activities
- wear fine, festive clothing
What We Do
Starting from midday on 8 Av, we limit our Torah study to the few allowed topics that are of a sad nature or pertain to the Temples’ destruction.
We eat a square meal in the afternoon, before Minchah services. Then, late in the afternoon, a “separation meal,” seudah hamafseket, is eaten. It consists of bread and a hard-boiled egg dipped in ashes, accompanied by water. This meal is eaten alone, sitting on a low stool.
The meal must be over by sundown, when all the laws of Tisha B’Av take effect.
Tisha B’Av evening services are held in synagogue, where the ark has been stripped of its decorative curtain and the lights dimmed. Evening prayers are followed by the chanting of Eichah (Lamentations).
Morning prayers are held without tallit and tefillin, since both are considered adornments. Most of the morning is occupied by the reading of Kinot, elegies marking the various tragedies that befell our people.
Work is permitted on Tisha B’Av, but discouraged. On this day, one’s focus should be on mourning and repentance. If one must work, it is preferable to begin after midday.
It is customary to give extra charity on Tisha B’Av, as on every fast day.
After midday, it is permissible to sit on chairs, and tallit and tefillin are worn during the afternoon prayer. In the synagogue, the ark’s curtain is restored to its place before the afternoon prayers.
Many communities have the custom to clean the house and wash the floors after midday, in anticipation of the Redemption, which we await.
Many important details and laws can be found in Order of the Day and What to Expect at Tisha B’Av Services.
After The Fast
When night falls, before breaking the fast, one should perform netilat yadayim (hand-washing), this time covering the entire hand with water, but without reciting the blessing. It is also customary to perform Kiddush Levanah at this point, celebrating the rebirth of the moon, and our hoped-for national rebirth.
The Temple was set ablaze on the afternoon of the 9th of Av, and it burned through the 10th. Therefore, the restrictions of the Nine Days (such as not eating meat, swimming or laundering clothing) extend until midday of the 10th of Av.
The Joy Within The Sadness
Even as we mourn, there is an element of joy and comfort. Indeed, the reading of Eichahconcludes with the verse “Restore us to You, O L‑rd, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old.” There is also a custom among many to use flimsy paperback Kinot booklets, hoping that they will not be needed next year.
It is by no accident that Scripture refers to this day as a mo’ed, a holiday, and Tachanun(prayer of repentance) is not said today. May the time soon come when we look back with the clarity of hindsight to see how all our suffering was but a prelude to happiness and goodness, with the coming of Moshiach. Amen!
UPDATE IN JERUSALEM:
Over 1,000 Jews Ascend Temple Mount
1,008 Jews arrived today, Sunday, to the Temple Mount on the occasion of the fast of Tisha B’Av, marking the mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
Most of the visitors to the Temple Mount completed their visits without any incident, but nine were detained by police, some for bowing on the mount.
These were removed from the Temple Mount and detained at the Beit Eliyahu police station. All were released after the delay, with the exception of three detainees, who are receiving assistance from attorney Moshe Polski of the Honenu legal organization.
The Temple Mount will open for Jews for another hour, between 1:30 and 2:30 pm.
An Arab boy was arrested on the Temple Mount after waving a Palestinian flag and shouting slogans against Jews.
Among the visitors to the mount were activists from the “Students for the Temple Mount” organization who came with sandbags in order, they said, to “start building instead of crying.” Three activists with helmets and construction equipment were detained, while two more activists and the chairman of the organization advanced to the entrance to the Temple Mount with their helmets.
A violent quarrel broke out in the marketplace located in the Muslim Quarter, between Jewish worshipers who were on their way to the Western Wall plaza and Arab residents of the Old City. Police who arrived at the scene separated the parties.
Resource: Chabad.ORG and ARUTZ SHEVA Israel National News