How We Mourn on Tisha b’Av

A) When Tisha b’Av begins on a Saturday night and ends at nightfall on a Sunday: Because Erev Tisha b’Av is Shabbat, one should make the following emendations to their Shabbat celebration:

1) One should eat the regular three meals of Shabbat (Friday night dinner, Shabbat lunch and Seudah Shlishit). Wine and meat may be consumed in honor of Shabbat.

2) Seudah Shlishit, the third meal, should be completed before sunset (refer to your local candle lighting time for July 27th).

a) If one does not regularly have guests for Seudah Shlishit, one should not invited guests on this Shabbat.

3) After Shabbat, only the blessing over the candle is recited for Havadallah, the ceremony separating Shabbat from weekday. On Sunday night, at the close of Tisha B’Av, an abridged Havdallah, containing the blessing over the wine and the final blessing (Hamavdil), is made.

a) If one is ill and must eat during the fast, one should first complete the Havdallah ceremony.


B) Erev Tisha b’Av, Tisha b’Av Eve, How We Prepare:

1) Many have the custom of eating a full meal early in the afternoon so that they will be properly fortified for the fast.

2) Seudah HaMafseket (the final meal) is eaten towards the end of the day. This is not a festive meal. Several features distinguish this meal from other meals:

a) One does not eat more than one type of cooked food.

b) Many eat a hard-boiled egg or lentils, which are customary signs of mourning – round foods representing the cycle of life.

c) Some have a custom of eating bread dipped in ashes.

d) It is also customary to sit on the floor or on a low stool during the final meal.

e) Generally, the seudah hamafseket should not be eaten with a group of three or more people.


C) Prohibitions of Tisha b’Av

1) Eating – From sunset on the eve of Tisha b’Av until nightfall the next day it is forbidden to eat.

a) Pregnant and nursing women also fast, however, they should consult both a doctor and a rabbi about fasting.

b) One who is ill must consult a rabbi. If the rabbi says (s)he must eat, they should only eat that which is necessary and should refrain from delicacies.

c) Girls below the age of 12 and boys below the age of 13 are not required to fast.

2) Drinking – It is forbidden to drink on Tisha b’Av.

a) The above exemptions from fasting apply to drinking as well.

b) This prohibition includes rinsing the mouth.

3) Washing – During the fast, one may not wash for pleasure.

a) If one is dirty, one is permitted to wash away the dirt.

b) Upon rising in the morning and after using the bathroom, one should wash one’s hands, but only up to the knuckles.

c) One may wash one’s hands when preparing food.

d) One may bathe a baby.

4) Anointing – It is forbidden to anoint oneself with oil, thus the use of perfumes, make-up, and other such items is prohibited.

5) Wearing Leather Shoes – During the fast it is forbidden to wear leather shoes. Some people wear only socks, but others wear shoes of canvas or other non-leather materials.

6) Marital Relations are forbidden.

7) Studying Torah – Since studying Torah is considered a joyous activity, many have the custom to refrain from it from mid-day prior to Tisha B’av. Only the following select topics of Torah may be studied:

a) The third chapter of the Talmudic tractate Moed Katan, which deals with mourning and excommunication, and other parts of the Talmud dealing with the destruction of the Temples.

b) The Book of Lamentations (Eicha) and the commentaries on it

c) The Book of Job (Iyov)

d) Sections from the Book of Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu) which contain admonition and rebuke

8 ) Greeting others – On Tisha Ba’Av, one does not greet friends or neighbors. If however, one is greeted, one may respond so as not to embarrass the other person.


D) Tisha b’Av Activities

1) Until midday, it is customary to sit on the floor or on low stools, as a sign of mourning.

2) On Tisha b’Av night, the regular evening service is recited with the following additions:

a) Eicha, The Book of Lamentations which was composed by Jeremiah , is read.

b) Kinot, Elegies reflecting the many tragedies, are also recited.

c) V’Atah Kadosh, a prayer of selected biblical verses, is recited.

d) The synagogue lights are dimmed, or only one small light in the sanctuary is left on.

3) During the Tisha b’Av morning service there are several additions:

a) Deuteronomy 1:25-40 is read from the Torah scroll, followed by a Haftorah (prophetic message) from the Book of Jeremiah.

b) The Tallit (prayer shawl) and T’fillin (phylacteries) are not worn until after noon, since they are symbolic of glory.

4) The afternoon service has the following additions:

a) Exodus 32:11-14 is read from the Torah scroll, followed by Isaiah 55-56, from the prophets.

b) Tallit and T’fillin are worn, since they were not worn in the morning.

c) The Nachem and Aneinu prayers are inserted into the silent Amidah.

5) After the fast:

a) Kiddush Levana (Sanctification of the Moon) is recited.

b) It is customary to continue to refrain from meat, wine, pleasure bathing and cutting hair until midday on the Tenth of Av, since the Temple continued to burn until that afternoon.

c) When Tisha b’Av falls on Shabbat and the fast takes place on Sunday the 10th of Av, except for the consumption of meat and wine, and the listening to music, all prohibitions are permitted immediately after the fast. One should wait for Monday morning for the latter 3 activities.