The Laws of Tisha b’Av

Based on “A Summary of Halachos of the Three Weeks” by Rabbi Shimon D. Eider

This is a continuation of:

The Laws of the Three Weeks

The Laws of the Nine Days

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.

The Eve of Tisha b’Av

When the Day Before Tisha b’Av is a Weekday

  • If a brit or pidyon haben (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 bread, cold hard-boiled eggs and water. The meal is eaten while seated on the floor. A portion of the bread should be dipped in ashes and eaten, 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 the Day Before Tisha b’Av is Observed is Shabbat

  • The following laws apply whether this Shabbat is the 8th of Av or on the 9th of Av itself and the fast is postponed until Sunday the 10th of Av (unless otherwise specified).
  • 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.
  • Marital relations are permitted when this Shabbat occurs on the 8th of Av but not on the 9th, except for the evening of her immersion (see “Bathing and Washing” and “Marital Relations” below).
  • “Av haRachamim” is said in the morning prayers; “tzidkatcha tzedek” in 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 even more 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.
  • “Ata Chonantanu” is recited as usual in the evening prayer. However, the customary havdalla is not said. Rather, the blessing over seeing candlelight is recited after the evening prayer and before reading Eicha (Lamentations). After Tisha b’Av, havdalla is recited over a cup of wine (or grape juice) or beer but no spices are used.

Tisha b’Av

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 injure health, in which case a competent rabbi should be consulted.
  • A woman within seven days of childbirth may not fast, and within thirty days should not 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.
  • When Tisha b’Av is observed on Sunday, one who must eat recites havdalla over beer, coffee or tea.

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). One may use soap or warm water to remove the dirt or odor if necessary.
  • Washing for cooking or for medical reasons is permitted.
  • A woman may not immerse on the day Tisha b’Av is observed since relations are prohibited. Washing to commence the clean days is permitted.
  • When the time of immersion is on the 9th of Av which occurs on Shabbat such that the fast is postponed until Sunday, it is permitted to immerse.
  • If this Shabbat is not the evening of immersion, relations are prohibited (see “Marital Relations” below).

Anointing

  • Anointing for pleasure is prohibited including oil, soap, alcohol, cream, ointment, perfume, etc.
  • Anointing for medical reasons is permitted, as well as using deodorant to remove bad odor.

Marital Relations

  • Since relations are prohibited on Tisha b’Av, a husband and wife should not come in contact during the night of Tisha b’Av.
  • This is also the case when the 9th of Av occurs on Shabbat even though mourning is not exhibited, since in private matters mourning is in effect.
  • However, when the evening of immersion occurs on the 9th of Av which is Shabbat, relations are permitted (see “Bathing and Washing” above).

Wearing Leather Shoes

  • Even shoes made only 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 were not found, one may wear leather shoes. In such a case, he should nevertheless deprive himself of comfort by placing a small pebble in the shoes or removing the comfortable insoles. However, when the shoes are no longer needed he must remove them.
  • Wearing leather shoes is permitted for medical reasons.

Learning Torah

  • 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 Eicha (Lamentations) with its midrash and 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.

Additional Restrictions

  • One should deprive himself of some comfort in sleep. Some reduce the number of pillows and/or 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 similar gestures 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 even 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’s mind from mourning. In a case of financial loss, consult a competent rabbi.

Prayer

  • Ashkenazim 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.
  • Sefaradim wear the tallit and tefillin at shacharit as usual.
  • At mincha, the prayers “nacheim” and “aneinu” are added to the Shemone Esrei during the blessing “vl’yerushalayim” and “shema koleinu” respectively. “Sim shalom” is said in place of “shalom rav”. If one forgot them and completed that bracha, he need not repeat the prayer.

The Day After Tisha b’Av

  • The limitations of the Three Weeks and the Nine Days continue until midday of the 10th of Av. This includes the prohibition of music, haircuts, meat and wine, laundering and bathing.
  • When Tisha b’Av is observed on Sunday, havdalla is recited Sunday night over a cup of wine (or grape juice) or beer but no spices are used. (The blessing over the candle is made after Shabbat before the reading of Eicha).
  • When this Sunday is 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, meat and wine are prohibited until Monday morning.
  • It sometimes occurs that Tisha b’Av is on Thursday so that the 10th of Av is on Friday. In honor of Shabbat, in such a case laundering is permitted Thursday night; haircuts and bathing Friday morning; and music in the afternoon.
  • The custom is to sanctify the new moon on the conclusion of Tisha b’Av, preferably after having eaten something. When Tisha b’Av is on Thursday and concludes the night which begins Friday, the custom is to wait until after Shabbat on 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!

Other parts in this series are:

The Laws of the Three Weeks

The Laws of the Nine Days

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