Tonight, at sunset, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar begins. Known as the Fast of the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the observances of the day are very similar to Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. In addition to fasting (no food or drink) for a 25 hour period from sundown Monday to nightfall on Tuesday, additional restrictions include refraining from washing, using lotions, wearing leather shoes and marital relations.

Aside from the synagogue service, there are two major distinctions between the two days: 1. Work (creative labor) is permitted on Tisha B’Av, and 2. Tisha B’Av’s customs are mourning oriented, while Yom Kippur’s observances have a more joyous tone as we celebrate through the suppression of our physical needs our anticipated absolution from sin. After all, we are compared on Yom Kippur to angels (which is also why we wear white).

Like the 17th of Tammuz, there are five events commemorated on Tisha B’Av (Mishnah Ta’anit 4:6).

1. God’s decree that the Israelites would wander in the wilderness for 40 years.

2. The destruction of the First Temple.

3. The destruction of the Second Temple.

4. The end of the Bar Kokhba revolt, when the Romans destroyed the city of Betar.

5. The city of Jerusalem was plowed over by Turnus Rufus, a Roman general.

See here for a brief overview of the day

See here for explanations of the observances

See here for later events on this date

See here for a more elaborate overview of the day

*This Treat was originally published on August 8, 2008. It is being re-Treated to help us better understand Tisha B’Av.