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Tisha B'Av Primer

Dear Chaverim,



Tisha B’Av (9 of the Hebrew month of Av) is the saddest day on the Jewish Calendar. It commemorates the tragedies of the failed entry into the land of Israel and the sin of the Spies, the Destruction of both the first and second Temples, the fall of Beitar, the Bar Kochba stronghold, the plowing under of Jerusalem, as well as the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Furthermore, the day has become a day to mourn many other tragedies in our history, including the slaughter of Jews during the Crusades, the burning of the Talmud in Paris in 1242, the fall of Shiloh, and the Shoah.  As such there are many mourning practices that are observed on this day and the days leading up to the 9 of Av. This year also contains some special practices as the 9 of Av actually falls on Shabbat and the official Fast day is observed Saturday after sundown, through to Sunday night.


Laws of Shabbat falling on the 9 of Av.


1. We do not observe public aspects of mourning. We wear Shabbat garments, we eat meat, and even sing the regular Shabbat songs.


2. There are some private aspects of mourning that are practiced, such as observing a hiatus from marital relations. Some restrict their study of Torah to only the study of Tisha B’av related material, others observe this prohibition only from midday on Saturday (1:18 pm)


3. The final meal before the 9 of Av begins should be a calorically rich meal and can even consist of meat and one may sing Shabbat songs at that meal. If one participates in a group late day meal (Seudah Shelishit) on other Shabbatot, one may continue to do so for the meal before 9 of Av (for reference when 9 of Av falls on other days of the week this meal is eaten in solitude). Authorities caution against excessive levity and rejoicing at this meal, even as they permit the regular Shabbat spirit. The meal should conclude before sunset (in Vancouver the fast begins 8:40 PM).


4. Havdalah is a complicated picture and is executed in stages as detailed below:

  • Havdalah on the cup is not made on Saturday night, but is delayed until after the 9 of Av concludes, and is customarily made on beer or spirits but not on wine. Although one who is unable to fast, such as a diabetic, should make a proper Havdalah (without spices see letter c) before eating.
  • We make the blessing on the candle after the evening service on Saturday night before reading Eicha.
  • We make no blessing on the spices, as this gladdens the spirit and is not consistent with the tone of the 9 of Av.

5. After the recitation of Barechu prayer, and the beginning of the Maariv service, and once Shabbat has ended, we take off our leather shoes. Leather shoes were seen by the Rabbis as luxury item from which we divest ourselves during mourning. They are one of the five aspects of mourning shared between the 9 of Av and Yom Kippur.


6. The Five afflictions or Inuyim. These five categories are the formal actions of the most intense fast days of the year. On the 9 of Av they are for mourning, and on Yom Kippur they are the agents of atonement and an attempt to live like angels free from the material needs of this world. They are:

  • Eating and drinking is prohibited from sundown to stars out. One who is ill, pregnant or nursing should consult their Rabbi to determine if fasting is required or for an appropriate contingency plan.
  • Bathing is prohibited except in cases of obvious and obstructive dirt. More to the point, you can wash your hands after the washroom. You can also do the ritual washing of your hands up to the finger joints, as well if your hands or another part of the body gets extra dirty. Sadly, washing the face, or other parts of the body is prohibited.
  • Wearing leather shoes; in cases where one might be exposed to danger and protective footwear is required, should consult their Rabbi to determine the right course of action.
  • Marital relations including the “Harchakot.” or measures of separation observed during the Nida period are also observed. Frankly, this one is too complicated to explain in short or in public. Feel free to inquire further of your Rabbi or Mikveh teacher for more information.
  • The use of creams and oils is prohibited. One who has a dermatological issue is likely exempted from this prohibition when using medication, however a consult with a Rabbi is wise.
  • We also refrain from extending greetings of even “hello,” or even “ how are you?” on the 9 of Av. This accentuates our feelings of loneliness, mourning and the importance of courtesy and connection for after the fast.
  • The study of Torah is considered extremely joyous, thus on the 9 of Av we only permitted to study the 9 of Av related material, including the descriptions of the tragedies in the Bible, Josephus and as well the laws of mourning.

7. Prayers

  • At night we read the scroll of Lamentations or Eicha in its unique tune.
  • The Curtain or Parochet is removed from the Ark and the lights are dimmed.
  • In the morning, we read the Kinot, the poem/ prayers recounting tragedies.
  • We do not wear Talit and Tefilin until after midday and repeat the Shema while wearing Tefilin.

8. After the fast

  • We do not have meat or drink wine until Monday morning. The other prohibitions of the week leading to the 9 of Av are lifted after the fast.
  • A second reminder to make Havdalah on beer or spirits (bonus if you are Sephardic you can use wine).
  • Kiddush Levanah (weather permitting) is typically said after the fast.

Tisha B’Av schedule – August 10th – 11th



7:30 P.M. - Mincha (note: this time is different than printed calendar - it was changed to accommodate pre fast meal)

8:00 P.M. - Seudha Shlisheet / Seudah Hamafseket (prefast meal)

8:40 P.M. - Fast begins

9:33 P.M. - Havdalah

9:45 P.M. - Maariv and Eicha



8:30 P.M. - Shacharit followed by explanatory Kinot

5:30 P.M. - Movie and discussion - Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.

8:10 P.M. - Mincha

9:15 P.M. - Fast Ends

Wed, 27 May 2020 4 Sivan 5780