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Laws of Tisha B'Av

Submitted by rabbikurzer on 22 July 2020 - 11:29am

Tisha B'Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, is the day on which we mourn all Jewish tragedies throughout our history, most notably the destruction of both the First and Second Temple.  Below is a summary of some of the laws of Tisha B’Av, many of which are similar to the practices of Shiva as we mourn the loss of our Temple as though it has just happened.

Erev Tisha B’Av – Wednesday 29th July 2020:

  • It is customary to have pre-Tisha B’Av meal (“Seudah Hamafseket”) in the late afternoon prior to the fast.  This is usually a simple meal of bread and a hardboiled egg.  This meal must be concluded before sunset, when the fast begins.

The fast begins at 8:53pm.  Our Sages laid out a few main prohibitions on the day of Tisha B’Av itself (in 2020, from Wednesday 29th July, at 8:53pm until Thursday night 30th July, at 9:43pm).  Some of the restrictions are:

  • Eating and drinking.  One who is fully healthy should not eat throughout the fast.  One who is unwell, frail, or with a specific at-risk medical condition may be required to eat.  One who medically must eat, is Halachically forbidden to fast – one should not push oneself and thereby cause potential harm, particularly this year.
  • One should not wash or bathe other than for hygiene or halachic ritual.  Washing ‘al netilat yadayim’ in the morning is restricted to the fingers up to the knuckles.  After using the bathroom one should wash as necessary for hygiene but no more.  Washing parts of oneself to clean specific dirt is permitted.
  • Cosmetics should not be used on may be used on Tisha B'Av, however, they can be applied before the fast begins even though they may last through the day.  Deodorant may be used but aftershave or perfume should not be.
  • Shoes made of leather should not be worn. Footwear made of fabric, rubber, or synthetics are permissible.
  • Learning Torah is restricted to topics of Tisha B'Av, mourning, biblical prophecies regarding the Temple’s destruction and other similar topics.  This prohibition begins from afternoon prior to when the fast begins.
  • We sit on or close to the floor (e.g. on a shiva chair) from the eve of Tisha B'Av until halachic midday (1:07pm) on Tisha B'Av day.  Those with back problems or similar should sit on a regular chair.
  • We do not exchange greetings or make social conversation on Tisha B'Av, but rather join together in silent mourning for the destruction of the two Temples along with the tragic consequences, as well as subsequent tragedies.  If one is greeted, one may return the greeting in a soft voice so as not to embarrass or offend the other person.  These restrictions apply to virtual communications as well.
  • Tallit and Tefillin are not worn on Tisha B'Av morning (Tzitzit should be worn without a blessing). Tallit and Tefillin are put on at Mincha, with the brachot (blessings).

The fast ends at 9:43pm at Thursday 30th July 2020.

  • Many of the limitations of the Three Weeks and Nine Days continue until halachic midday (1:07pm) of the 10th of Av including music, laundry, haircuts, drinking wine and eating of meat.  However, anything done in honour of Shabbat (e.g. laundry or haircut) may be done on Friday morning.

"כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בשמחתה"
One who mourns for Jerusalem, will merit to see to its rejoicing.
May it come speedily, in our days.