Understanding Tisha B’av

The Meaning of Tisha B’Av. On Wednesday night –Tisha B’Av — we mark the fall of the First Holy Temple (Churban Bayit Rishon) at the hand of Babylonia and the second Holy Temple (Churban Bayit Sheni) at the hand of Rome. The Talmud lists and discusses several tragedies that happened to the Jewish People on Tisha B’Av. It initially was the night when the Jews in the Wilderness, having heard the Evil Report of 10 Spies who told them that the Promised Land consumes its inhabitants, wept in regret that they had departed from Egypt. It was the day of the Churbanot. It was the day in 135 C.E. when the Romans destroyed Bar Kochba’s forces at Betar, the last outpost of Jewish resistance in Israel against the Roman Empire. Later in our history, it was the day that Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand expelled the Jews from Spain.

Services and Times for Tisha B’Av Eve. We mark Tisha B’Av Night by reciting Eicha – the Book of Lamentations – authored by Jeremiah, prophet of the destruction who lived to see his tragic words come to pass. First we gather on Wednesday night for the regular Mincha at 6:30 pm. It is best to have eaten dinner before coming to Mincha. We then go home for the final meal before the fast. Particularly if you already have eaten dinner, that final meal is eaten while sitting on the floor. It is comprised of bread and a hard-boiled egg. Some of the bread or egg is dipped in ashes. Bentshing follows, but three men should not eat at the same meal, so as to avoid requiring a m’zuman. We remove our leather shoes. The fast begins at 7:50 p.m. Like Yom Kippur, it is a 25-hour fast. We gather in Shul at 8:00 pm for Maariv and follow with the reading of Eicha.

Services and Times for Tisha B’Av Day. Thursday morning, on Tisha B’Av Day, we begin Shacharit at 8:00 a.m. We do not don tefillin or wear a tallit at the morning service. We do, however, wear tzitzit. (Some are accustomed to recite the bracha upon putting on tzitzit, some do not.) Many of us do not go to work on Tisha B’Av. Others begin their work day only after mid-day, which falls this year at 12:57 p.m. Although Tisha B’Av does not follow Shabbat rules – so we may use electricity, drive, write, carry money, etc. – it is a day of mourning, so many devote the day to prayer and contemplation. Note that traditional practices of mourning are followed: no eating, no drinking, no wearing leather shoes, no washing, no anointing, and no marital intimacy. At the end of morning services, we recite the extended series of lamentations – kinot.

We gather on Thursday afternoon at 6:30 pm for Mincha. We don tefillin and wear the tallit at the Tisha B’Av Mincha service. Maariv follows, and the Fast Ends at 8:30 p.m.

The Day After Tisha B’Av. Those who follow practices of mourning throughout the Nine Days — such as refraining from eating meat, from drinking wine, from bathing, from shaving or haircutting, from laundering, from listening to music, etc. – continue to maintain those observances into the morning after Tisha B’Av because the Second Temple, which was set ablaze on Tisha B’Av, continued burning into the Tenth of Av. All mourning practices end at mid-day. We then shift gears and prepare for Shabbat with a heart of joy, as we embark on Shabbat Nachamu, a time of consolation.

May we merit seeing peace in Israel and witnessing the Rebuilding and Reestablishment of Jerusalem in All Her Glory in our days.