17 – Removing the Curtain from Before the Ark; Tallit and Tefillin

We remove the curtain from before the Holy Ark prior to the Ma’ariv service, as it says, The Lord has done what He planned; He has fulfilled His word (Eichah 2:17), which Chazal interpret to mean that HaShem, as it were, tore His garment. By doing this, we demonstrate how low we have descended since the Temple was destroyed (Rama 559:2). We return the curtain to its proper place before praying Minchah (K.H.C. 19).

Many also have a custom not to wear their prayer shawls (talit gadol) or don their tefillin during Shacharit prayers. Just as HaKadosh Baruch Hu, as it were, “fulfilled His word” – i.e., tore His garment – so too, we refrain from wearing a talit. And just as the verse states, He cast down from heaven to earth the glory of Israel (Eichah 2:1), which refers to God’s tefillin, so too, we refrain from adorning ourselves with tefillin. However, since most Rishonim hold that the mitzvah of donning tefillin takes affect on Tish’a B’Av as it does on all other days, we wear talit and tefillin at Minchah time. [The Rabbis] chose to abstain from these mitzvot during Shacharit because that is when we demonstrate the height of our mourning and pain through the recitation of Kinot. By Minchah time, in contrast, we already accept some consolation. The Shulchan Aruch codifies [this practice] into law (555:1), and all Ashkenazi communities, as well as many Sefardic ones, follow it. One should wear his talit kattan [the small four-cornered garment usually worn under one’s shirt] from the beginning of the day [as usual], but it is uncertain whether a blessing is said when putting it on. Therefore, it is preferable to sleep in one’s talit kattan on the night of Tish’a B’Av; this way, one will not have to recite the blessing in the morning. Only before Minchah will one recite the blessing, upon enwrapping himself in his large talit (prayer shawl).

There are some meticulous Jews who do not want to read the Shema without wearing a talit and tefillin. Therefore, they put them on at home, before Shacharit, read the Shema, and then go to pray with the congregation, without talit and tefillin. Some Sefardic communities wear talit and tefillin during Shacharit, [as usual]. Each community should continue observing its custom.[21]


[21]According to the Ra’avad, one should not wear tefillin on Tish’a B’Av, just like a mourner does not wear tefillin on his first day of mourning. Others maintain that although there is no obligation to wear tefillin on Tish’a B’Av, there is also no prohibition to do so. The Me’iri quotes this in the name of “a few sages,” and the Maggid Mishnah explains this to be the Rambam’s opinion (in terms of the head tefillin). The Ramban, Rashba, Rosh, and most of the Rishonim hold that one is obligated to wear tefillin on Tish’a B’Av. The prevalent custom, as cited in the Shulchan Aruch 555:1, is not to wear them until Minchah. Similarly, the Maharam of Rotenberg and other Rishonim are quoted as saying that during Shacharit one should act as a first-day mourner [and refrain from donning tefillin], but after Minchah time, one must put on his tefillin, as if it is an ordinary day. Many great Sefardic sages, as well as a few Ashkenazi gedolim, were careful to wear their talit and tefillin before Shacharit prayers, in order to read the Shema in the best possible way; afterwards, they would go to the synagogue and pray with the congregation, without talit and tefillin. This was the custom of Maharam Galanti. The Ben Ish Chai (Devarim 25) and R. Chayim Palagi write that everyone should adopt this practice. Some communities prayed together while wearing their talitot and tefillin. The author of Knesset HaGedolah writes that this was the custom in Salonika, and the author of Shulchan Gavo’ah says that this was the custom in Izmir. The Kabbalists of Beit El in Jerusalem also followed this custom, as cited in Kaf HaChayim 555:4. See Torat HaMo’adim 10:15, Hilchot Chag BeChag 7:48. If one whose father’s custom is to wear tefillin during Shacharit in the synagogue prays in a minyan where they do not wear them, he should don tefillin at home, read Shema, and then go to the synagogue and pray with the congregation, without tefillin.