The 17th of Tammuz (4th month of the calendar) sets off the beginning of the three-week mourning period that ends on the month of Av, specifically on the 9th, a day of great pain and sorrow for the Jewish people.
The 9th of Av is a day of fast and abstinence in Judaism, considered the saddest day of the Jewish calendar.
Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, many of which have occurred on the ninth of Av.
This day is of great significance and commemorates terrible calamities and great suffering beginning with the destruction of the first temple by king Nebuchadnezzar II and the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the second by Titus and the Romans in 70 C.E. also the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and England and the beginning of World War I, events that foreshadowed the eventual Holocaust.
During this period of time, mourning is observed and these great calamities are remembered and represented through certain activities and behaviors to pay respects to these traditions. There is abstinence of certain foods or of performing certain activities out of respect to these days.
On the eve of Tisha B’Av
- Is it not recommended to travel or take trips since this type of activity may give chance to triviality, not focusing and mockery.
- Some people normally allow themselves a full meal during the early afternoon in order to be ready for the fasting.
- It is customary to omit all studying of the Torah after midday on the eve of the 9th of Av.
- All rejoice and fun must be tone down and one must refrain from absent mindedness
- No music, dancing or singing is usually performed.
Rules on Tisha B’Av
- Sexual relations are forbidden on that day.
- Perfumes, lotions or creams shouldn’t be used unless there is a present medical condition.
- Babies may be bathed and anointed with oils and lotions.
- One must not shower with neither hot nor cold water. Fingers and eyes may be cleansed.
- Leather shoes may not be worn except if a medical condition is present and with the authorization of a rabbi.
- Greeting is not allowed nor gifts are given. If greeted, one may answer but very quietly.
- House chores and work are not permitted, since theses things make the mind wonder and takes away concentration.
- Pregnant women may eat whatever is good for her and her child’s well being, but she must not consume anything for pleasure.
Before and during the meal.
- During this eve, behavior is representative of pain and sorrow. One must abstain from eating meat or drinking wine. Wash shouldn’t be washed nor anything just washed be worn.
- The food used to prepare the meal may be washed before is cooked.
- Is normal to start preparing the after midday.
- By the end of the day, a final meal may be eaten but keeping in mind that this meal must not include foods of the same category, like two types of pasta together for example. If necessary, the meal may be accompanied with bread, fruit or dairy.
- The most common tradition is to eat boiled eggs with lentils as a demonstration of mourning in the final meal. Some may have bread with ashes.
- Meal restrictions apply only to those who are healthy, because sick people may need special food to regain their strength and get better. Wine is the only drink not allowed.
- Is customary to have the final meal sitting in a low chair or in the floor.
- Prayers and chants that are normally said in the later afternoon must be done earlier to make time for the final meal.
After the meal.
- Once the meal is over and if the sun hasn’t yet set, it is allowed to continue eating but only as long as the fast hasn’t officially started.
- If one has decided not to eat anymore because of being full, you may eat again later, but only if you haven’t officially started the fast.
- You may hold to make the decision whether to fast or not, up until the moment the sun sets. All the eating before sunset is meant so the body and the mind are ready to take on the fast.
- If three people decide to eat together, they may not have their final meal together, but if they choose to do so, they cannot recite the Zimun while they are in each other’s company.
Tisha B’Av is never observed on Shabbat. If the 9th of Av falls on a Saturday, the fast is postponed until the 10th of Av. Tisha B’Av will occur on the following days of the secular calendar:
Jewish Year 5776: sunset August 13, 2016 – nightfall August 14, 2016
Jewish Year 5777: sunset July 31, 2017 – nightfall August 1, 2017
Jewish Year 5778: sunset July 21, 2018 – nightfall July 22, 2018
Jewish Year 5779: sunset August 10, 2019 – nightfall August 11, 2019