This Saturday night at sunset, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar begins. Known as the Fast of the 9th of Av (Tisha b’Av), it’s observance this year is postponed one day because it is prohibited to fast on Shabbat. The observances of Tisha b’Av 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 on Shabbat to nightfall on Sunday, 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 fast 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 our anticipated absolution from sin via the suppression of our physical needs. After all, we are compared to angels on Yom Kippur (which is also why we wear white).

Like the Fast of 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 Kochba revolt, when the Romans destroyed the city of Betar.
5. The city of Jerusalem was plowed over by Turnus Rufus, a Roman general.

To learn more about the history of the day and how it is observed, you can find more information on our Tisha b’Av resource page.

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