of Tisha B'Ab
Haham Shemuel Yerushalmi, Jerusalem from the Sephardic classic Me'am
Reading of Eikha on Tisha B'Ab
purpose of reading the book of Eikha is not merely to recount
our suffering. Our Sages emphasize the positive intent of the narrative
ingrain faith in the heart of Israel in the coming of the Mashiah
and the ultimate redemption. The themes of suffering and faith emphasized
by King David in the Book of Psalms (69:10-1 declares, "The taunting
of those who revile You has fallen upon wept and chastened my soul
with fasting ... I made sackcloth my garment ... I am the song of
drunkards. But as for me, let my prayer be to You, 0 Lord ... 0 God,
in the greatness of Your faithful love, hear me, in the truth of Your
salvation." Although he has sunk to the point that drunkards
revel in his tale, David faithfully trusts in God and awaits His redemption.
* * * * *
a mark of its uniqueness, Tisha B'Ab has been set aside as a time
of fasting and lamentation. In addition, since the Seventeenth of
Tammuz is also a day of tragedy, the Three Weeks between the two fasts
are considered a period of national mourning, and certain customs
limiting celebration are observed at this time.
(Laws) of Tisha B'Ab and the Three Weeks
Three Weeks Between The Seventeenth of Tammuz and Tisha B'Ab
the Three Weeks between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and Tisha B'Ab,
it is proper to minimize rejoicing. Ashkenazic custom dictates that
weddings and other celebrations are not held in this period. Both
the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities refrain from dancing and
playing music at this time. (Nevertheless, a professional musician
may work for gentiles until Rosh Hodesh Ab.) Certain communities abstain
from eating meat and drinking wine in this period. Generally, however,
these restrictions are not enforced until Rosh Hodesh Ab.
as a mourner does not cut his hair or shave, it is customary to refrain
from doing so during these three weeks. One should refrain from hitting
children at this time.
prophet Isaiah declared, "Zion will be redeemed with -judgment
and those who return to her, through charity." The commentaries
explain that in this context judgment refers to the study of Torá
and, in particular, Halakha. In these weeks, accentuated by the memory
of Jerusalem's downfall, we must increase our efforts in those activities:
Torá study and gifts to charity, which will bring about her redemption.
In particular, it is appropriate to study the laws relating to the
construction of the Temple, for in the Midrash it says, "When
Jews study the laws of the Temple, God considers it as if they are
involved in its construction."
Blessing of Shehehiyanou
the three weeks between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and Tisha B'Ab,
it is customary not to eat new fruits [i.e. species of fruit which
have not been eaten for a full seasonal or buy new clothes since these
require reciting the blessing "Shehehiyanou." Although a
mourner is permitted to recite Shehehiyanou, this stringency is added
during these days of national catastrophe. The blessing of Shehehiyanou
thanks God for "keeping us alive, maintaining us, and allowing
us to reach this occasion." An expression of this type is inappropriate
during this solemn time.
some halakhic sources permit this blessing to be recited on Shabbat.
A pregnant woman who desires a new fruit, or a sick person requiring
one for reasons of health, may eat the fruit; the blessing should
not be recited. If a new fruit will not be available after Tisha B'Ab
and it cannot be saved until the Sabbath, it may be eaten and the
Shehehiyanou recited. If one ate a new fruit during the Three Weeks
without reciting the Shehehiyanou, he should refrain from eating it
again until the Three Weeks have concluded. Then, he should find a
new fruit of a different species and recite the Shehehiyanou, having
in mind both species.
the fulfillment of a Mitsvah requires a Shehehiyanou, as in the redemption
of the first-born, the blessing is recited. Shehehiyanou may also
be recited upon finding a valuable article. Birchas HaGomel may be
recited even on Tisha B'Ab.
Applying to the Nine Days
the month of Ab arrives, rejoicing is subdued. No celebrations are
held. Due to the negative character of the month, a Jew involved in
a legal suit with a gentile should postpone the matter until Rosh
Hodesh Elul, or at least until after Tisha B'Ab.
certain communities, dress clothing is not worn, even on the Sabbath.
Even in those communities, however, one whose marriage will be held
the following week may wear his dress clothing. Similarly, on the
Sabbath, the parents of the groom and bride may wear their dress coats
in his honor. In other communities, wearing one's dress clothing is
customary on the Sabbath and the Vilna Gaon introduced this custom
in Vilna. Some communities follow yet another custom, changing only
certain garments for the Sabbath .
a brit, the Mohel, the Sandek (the man who holds the child during
the circumcision), and the child's father and mother may wear dress
clothes. The Kwatter (the man who brings the baby to and from the
Brit) is not given this privilege, but the Kwatterin (woman who brings
the baby to the Kwatter) may wear her dress clothing.
Rosh Hodesh Ab until the fast, it is customary to minimize business
activity. Some authorities maintain that this restriction refers only
to business activity of a festive nature, e.g. the purchase of silver
objects, or preparations for a wedding, leaving other business activity
unrestricted. However, there are sources which place restrictions
on all business activity, holding that one should seek only to earn
his minimal livelihood. However, even according to these sources,
one may attend a business fair or take part in business dealings that
cannot be postponed. In general, at present leniency is allowed in
this matter since most of our business activity is necessary to earn
From Meat and Wine
meat or drinking wine from Rosh Hodesh Ab until Tisha B'Ab is forbidden.
Some begin the prohibition from the Seventeenth of Tammuz. This prohibition
does not apply on the Sabbath or at a feast connected with a Mitsvah.
Unless meat is required for a sick person, for the Sabbath or for
a Mitsvah feast, slaughtering is not performed and ritual slaughterers
hide away their knives from Rosh Hodesh Ab until the loth of the month.
When necessary, or if Tisha B'Ab falls on Thursday, slaughtering is
permitted on Tisha B'Ab after midday.
prohibition against eating meat applies equally to fresh meat, fowl
or meat that has been dried and salted. If, for medical reasons, one
cannot eat dairy dishes, fowl or dried meat may be eaten, but not
fresh meat. This leniency can be explained as follows: One of the
reasons for prohibiting meat was to recall the nullification of the
sacrifices. Since fowl were never offered on the Altar and sacrificial
meat could not be eaten after two days had passed, the restriction
against eating such meat is less severe. Greater lenience is shown
in the case of a nursing woman who needs nourishment in order to overcome
difficulty in providing milk for her child. She may eat even fresh
are certain authorities who allow the drinking of wine for ritual
purposes, e.g. for Habdalah or when reciting Grace during the week
of Tisha B'Ab. However, other authorities suggest that the wine be
given to a child. These authorities concede, however, that if no child
is present, an adult may drink the Habdalah wine, but Grace should
be recited without wine. Other alcoholic beverages, such as beer or
mead, may be consumed during this period.
above restriction applies during the week, but not on the Sabbath.
At a feast connected with a Mitsvah, such as a Brit or a Pidyon HaBen
(redemption of a first-born son), wine may be drunk, (although the
Sages advise the participants to be conservative in their consumption
of that beverage). By the same token, the number of guests invited
to such a celebration should be restricted to ten friends and one's
close family during the week of Tisha B'Ab. Anyone who eats meat or
drinks wine during this period, except in the above-mentioned instances,
is viewed with severity by the Sages.
this period one may not take a haircut or shave, or trim any other
hair. Children may not be given haircuts. A mourner whose thirty day
period of mourning (during which hair may not be cut) is concluded
in the week of Tisha B'Ab may trim his hair with a knife, but not
with scissors. Some authorities permit this only before Rosh Hodesh Ab, but if the thirty days end between Rosh Hodesh and the week of
Tisha B'Ab, other authorities are lenient.
Study on the Afternoon Before Tisha B'Ab
will be explained, certain restrictions are placed on Torá study during
Tisha B'Ab. Those restrictions are in force from noon the previous
day. Thus, if Tisha B'Ab falls on the Sabbath or Sunday, Pirkei Avot
is not recited that afternoon. In certain communities, if Tisha B'Ab
falls on Sunday, no restrictions are placed on Torá study on the preceding
Meal Preceding the Fast
Tisha B'Ab eve, a person should eat a full meal in the afternoon in
order that he have the strength to endure the fast. However, in no
way should that meal be considered a pleasurable occasion and no delicacies
should be served.
above does not refer to the meal preceding the fast. That meal should
be served shortly before nightfall with very solemn undertones. The
amount of food served should be restricted to a bare minimum. On no
account should two dishes be served.
is customary to eat only bread and either eggs or lentils during this
meal since both are symbolic of mourning. Furthermore, both the bread
and the eggs are dipped in ashes rather than in salt to emphasize
the aspect of mourning.
meal should not be eaten among a group of people. Rather, each individual
should eat his serving alone. If people do eat together, they should
turn away from each other. Under no circumstances is grace to be recited
as a group. It has become customary to eat this meal while seated
on low stools or cushions, rather than on ordinary chairs. None of
the above restrictions or customs apply when Tisha B'Ab eve falls
on the Sabbath. In such a case, one may eat a festive meal as is customary
throughout the year.
Night of Tisha B'Ab
the restrictions that apply to Tisha B'Ab begin from sunset of the
previous day. In the evening, the entire community gathers in the
synagogue, the lights are dimmed, and the cover of the ark is removed.
The congregation sits on pillows or low stools and recites the evening
service slowly, in a tearful tone, in recognition that the entire
Jewish people is in mourning.
Recitation of Eikha [The Book of Lamentations]
the Shemonah Esray prayers, Eikha is read. Certain communities read
Eikha from a scroll, but that custom is not generally followed. The
text is read slowly, in a tone of lamentation, the congregation following
the reader with hushed voices. At the beginning of each chapter, the
reader lifts his voice. When the reader reaches the second to last
verse, Hashivenu, he pauses and the congregation recites the verse
aloud. Afterwards, he concludes the text and, then, the congregation
repeats Hashivenu. In most communities, Eikha is read communally only
in the evening. However, there are some who follow the custom of reading
it communally the following morning as well. It is proper to study
the text individually during the course of the day.
the recitation of Eikha, a number of Kinot (mourning prayers) are
recited. At the conclusion, the prayer, VAN Kadosh is recited. The
first verse of that prayer, "And a redeemer will come to Zion,
"is not recited, since the future redemption will not come at
night. The second verse, "As for me: this is my covenant,"
is also omitted, since its recitation would imply that a covenant
is being made to recite prayers of mourning. This verse also makes
reference to Torá study which is restricted on Tisha B'Ab.
B'Ab Following the Sabbath
Tisha B'Ab falls directly after the Sabbath, Habdalah should not be
recited until after the fast. Independent of Habdalah, we use candlelight
and make the blessing, "Boray M'oray Ha'Aish," praising
God for creating light on Saturday night. Preferably, this blessing
should be recited before the recitation of Eikha, Two reasons are
given for this practice:
we will benefit from light during the course of reading Eikha and,
hence, the blessing should be recited before the reading; and also
one of the, verses of Eikha declares: "He has placed me in darkness."
For this reason, praise for light should be recited beforehand. The
blessing may be recited later that night, if it was not recited before
the reading of Eikha.
the Shemonah Esray prayers, Habdalah (the prayer, Ata honan-tahnu)
is added. Women who do not recite the evening service, or a man who
wants to carry out work beforehand, should declare, Barukh HaMaudil
Bayn Kodesh L'hol-"Blessed is He Who separates between the holy
and the mundane"-, to distinguish between the Sabbath and the
the evening service following Tisha B'Ab, Habdalah is not recited.
One may not eat after the fast until Habdalah is recited. Wine is
used for the Habdalah ceremony and it may be drunk by an adult. Neither
a cnadle or spices are used in the ceremony.
Prohibitions of Tisha B'Ab
Sages have described five physical afflictions which must be suffered
on Tisha B'Ab. We must refrain from:
Eating and drinking,
Applying oil or ointments to one's body,
are also placed on Torá study, and in some communities, on work. All
these restrictions begin from sunset before the fast and last until
nightfall the following day. Even if the evening prayers of the loth
of Ab are recited before nightfall, all the constraints of the day
must be observed until nightfall.
is from Haham Shemuel Yerushalmi in his writing from the Me'am
Lo'ez. The Torá Anthology-Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez which is available
in all Jewish bookstores. Me'am Lo'ez is popular among both Sephardim
and Ashkenazim, although the work was originally printed in Ladino.
It was also translated into Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic. Today it is available
in several languages including Spanish and Russian.