Peninei Halakha

14 – Doing Work

Our Sages state, “Anyone who works on Tish’a B’Av will never see a sign of blessing” from it (Ta’anit 30b). The reason is that [doing work] distracts one from mourning. However, Chazal did not prohibit work on Tish’a B’Av explicitly. Rather, some places had a custom to forbid it, while others had a custom to permit it. Thus, the Rabbis said that the local custom obligates [each individual]. Therefore, one is forbidden to work on Tish’a B’Av in a place where the custom is to refrain from doing work (Pesachim 54b). Nowadays, all of Israel has a custom to refrain from doing work on Tish’a B’Av until midday. It is proper to continue doing so after midday, as well, in order to remain focused on the mourning. Therefore, we work after midday only if it is very necessary (see Sh.A. and Rama 554:22, 24; M.B. 49).

The types of work that are forbidden on Tish’a B’Av are those that take time to perform and occupy one’s thoughts, like sewing, mending clothing, repairing furniture, fixing electrical appliances, and commerce. However, tasks that take little time to complete, like lighting or extinguishing [a candle], tying or untying, and traveling for a necessary purpose, are permitted, because they do not distract one’s mind from mourning.

Writing is forbidden, because it is a distraction, but one may transcribe things that are related to Tish’a B’Av.

It is permissible to sell food items [on Tish’a B’Av], so that people can have what they need for the meal after the fast. Starting midday, one may prepare for that meal. Some women have a custom to toil and clean the house after midday, in anticipation of Mashiach, who is [supposed to be] born on Tish’a B’Av. One should not denounce their actions (Birkei Yosef 559:7).

A Jew may instruct a non-Jew to do work for him on Tish’a B’Av. However, jobs that are done out in the open, like building a house or doing business in a store, are forbidden, because it looks like [the one who commissioned the work] is belittling the communal mourning (M.B. 554:46).

One may perform a task on Tish’a B’Av if delaying it will cause significant [monetary] loss, similar to the law on Chol HaMo’ed (Sh.A. 554:23).[18]

[18]The Shulchan Aruch implies that the custom-based prohibition to do work applies the entire day of Tish’a B’Av. [The author of] Torat HaMo’adim (8:24) concurs, writing that this is the Sefardic custom. From the wording of the Kaf HaChayim (554:97), however, it does not seem that there is a compulsory custom in this regard. I did not get involved in this issue [above] because, anyway, it is proper to refrain from work in the afternoon. The distinction [I made between various types of work] based on the duration [of the task] is found in Terumat HaDeshen and Rama 554:22, and its logic is that when something takes time [to execute], it causes one to forget that he is mourning. This is the criterion upon which every question should be decided. The Acharonim debate whether it is permissible to write [on Tish’a B’Av], as the Bi’ur Halachah (s.v. al) and Kaf HaChayim (110) demonstrate. I stated [above, that writing is forbidden] based on the rationale behind the halachah, that it all depends on [whether the task causes] a distraction from mourning. If one is concerned that he will forget a novel idea [he came up with], he may write it down, in accordance with the law [that permits one to do] work in a situation of potential loss.

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