Laws & Customs of Tisha B’Av

Laws and Customs of the three Weeks, the Nine Days & Tisha B’Av

The 17th of Tammuz, commemorating the fall of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the Temple, marks the beginning of a 3 week national period of mourning culminating with the 9th of Av.

The five events which we mourn on the 17th of Tammuz are:
1. Moshe broke the tablets at Mount Sinai – in response to the sin of the Golden Calf.
2. The daily offerings in the First Temple were suspended during the siege of Jerusalem, after the Kohanim could no longer obtain animals.
3. Jerusalem’s walls were breached, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
4. Prior to the Great Revolt, the Roman general Apostamos burned a Torah scroll – setting a precedent for the burning of Jewish books throughout the centuries.
5. An idolatrous image was placed in the Sanctuary of the Temple.

On Tisha B’Av, five national calamities occurred:
1. During the time of Moshe, Jews in the desert accepted the slanderous report of the 10 Spies, and the decree was issued forbidding them from entering the Land of Israel.(1312 BCE)
2. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and millions more exiled. (586 BCE)
3. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus. Some two million Jews died, and another one million were exiled. (70 CE)
4. The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. Betar, the Jews’ last stand against the Romans, was captured and liquidated. Over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered.(135 CE)
5. The Temple area and its surroundings were plowed under by the Roman general Turnus Rufus. Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan city – renamed Aelia Capitolina – access was forbidden to Jews.

Other grave misfortunes throughout Jewish history occurred on the Ninth of Av, including:
1. The Spanish Inquisition culminated with the expulsion of Jewsfrom Spain on Tisha B’Av in 1492.
2. World War One broke out on the eve of Tisha B’Av in 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia. German resentment from the war set the stage for the Holocaust.
3. On the eve of Tisha B’Av 1942, the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.

Aspects of Mourning During the Three Weeks
1. It is customary to refrain from getting married. (However, one may get engaged.)
2. It is customary to avoid public celebrations – especially those which involve singing, dancing and musical accompaniment.
3. It is customary to abstain from listening to live music. However if you make your living as a musician or teacher, or if you are a student practicing, but not performing, this does not apply.
Recorded music is debated amongst contemporary legal opinions.
4. It is customary to refrain from actions that would require the recital of the blessing Shechechiyanu i.e. on new food or clothes, except on Shabbat.
5. It is customary to refrain from getting haircuts or shaving.
A person who usually shaves daily and would suffer business or financial loss by not shaving may continue to do so.

Aspects of Mourning During the Nine Days
The period commencing with Rosh Chodesh Av until the 9th of Av is called the ‘Nine Days.’ During this time, a stricter level of mourning is observed, in accordance with the Talmudic dictum: “When the month of Av begins, we reduce our joy.” (BT Taanit 26)
1. It is customary to refrain from eating meat (including poultry) or wine. These foods are symbolic of the Temple service, and are generally expressions of celebration and joy.
*On Shabbat, meat and wine are permitted.
*This is also permitted at other seuduot mitzvah – for example, at a Brit Milah, or at the completion of a tractate of Talmud.
2. It is customary to limit bathing to the purpose of daily hygiene. Therefore, one should continue to bathe but in a manner that is somewhat less enjoyable.
*Those taking swim lessons or who swim for medical reasons may continue to do so.
3. It is customary to wait on purchasing any items that bring great joy.
*However, one may buy things if they will be difficult to find after the 9th of Av, or even if they will be more expensive later, but if possible one should wait to use/wear them until after this period.
*Purchases necessary for one’s livelihood are permitted.
4. It is customary to postpone beginning home improvements, or the planning of trees and flowers, until after the 9th of Av, as it would seem inconsistent to focus upon our home decor as we mourn the destruction of God’s house.

5. If one has the option, it is preferable to refrain from wearing newly laundered exterior garments(except on Shabbat)
* If the “freshness” has been taken out of a garment prior to the Nine Days (by having worn it for even a few moments), it may be worn. Some suggest before the Nine Days start to put on for a few moments any exterior garments you wish to wearin the coming
* EXCEPTION: The clothing of small children, which gets soiled frequently, may be laundered& worn during the Nine Days.

Aspects of Mourning On Tisha B’Av
Upon sundown, the laws of Tisha B’Av commence – consisting of the following expressions of mourning:
1. No eating or drinking until nightfall the following evening.
2. Other prohibitions include:
*Any bathing or washing, except for removing specific dirt – e.g.from your the eyes(OC 554:9, 11). (Upon rising in the morning, before prayers, or after using the bathroom, wash only the fingers.)
*Anointing oneself for pleasure. (Deodorant is permitted.)
* Having marital relations.
* Wearing leather shoes. (Leather belts may be worn.)
* Learning Torah. It is permitted to learn texts relevant to Tisha B’Av and mourning — e.g. the Book of Lamentations, Book of Job, parts of Tractate Moed Katan, Gittin 56-58, Sanhedrin 104, Yerushalmi end of Ta’anit, and the Laws of Mourning. In depth study should be avoided.
3. Other mourning practices include:
* Sitting no higher than a foot off the ground. After midday, one may sit on a chair.
* Not engaging in business or other distracting labors, unless it will result in a substantial loss.
* Refraining from greeting others or offering gifts.
*Avoiding idle chatter or leisure activities.

Following Tisha B’Av, all normal activities may be resumed, except for the following which are delayed until midday of the 10th of Av, because the burning of the Temple continued through the 10th of Av:

* Haircuts and washing clothes
* Bathing
* Eating meat and wine
* Music and swimming

Special thanks to Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland. I have copied from this information from their newsletter.