19 – The Laws of the Tenth of Av

The Babylonians conquered the Beit HaMikdash on the seventh of Av, setting it ablaze on the ninth of the month, late in the day, and it continued burning throughout the tenth of Av. Rabbi Yochanan commented that had he been alive at the time, he would have established the fast on the tenth of Av, because most of the Temple burned on that day. Some Amora’im (Talmudic Sages) adopted a stringency to fast on both the ninth and the tenth of Av. However, the prophets and sages established the fast on the ninth, because everything follows the beginning, and the disaster began on the ninth of Av (Ta’anit 29a, Yerushalmi Ta’anit 4:6).

Nonetheless, since the majority of the Temple actually burned on the tenth of Av, the people of Israel have a custom not to eat meat or drink wine on that date. According to Sefardic custom, the prohibition lasts the entire day, while Ashkenazim observe this custom only until midday (Sh.A. and Rama 558:1).

Most Acharonim maintain that, in addition to refraining from meat and wine, one may not wash clothes, wear freshly laundered garments, take haircuts, listen to joyous music, or bathe in hot water on the tenth of Av. One may, however, wash oneself with lukewarm water. Some [authorities] rule leniently, prohibiting only the consumption of meat and wine, while permitting bathing, haircutting, and laundering, without limitation. Ideally, one should follow the stricter opinion, but one may act leniently under pressing circumstances.[25]

Another [prevalent] custom is not to say the SheHechiyanu blessing on the tenth of Av, as is the law during the Three Weeks (Chida, Kaf HaChayim 558:8; see above 8.7-8).

When the tenth of Av falls out on a Friday, one is allowed to take a haircut, do laundry, and bathe, in preparation for the Sabbath, starting from the morning. And if one is pressed for time, he may even start preparing immediately after Tish’a B’Av ends (M.B. 558:3, A.H.S. 558:2. In the next halachah 1, we will discuss the laws of the night after the fast when [the fast] is postponed).

The custom is to postpone Birkat HaLevanah (the Blessing of the Moon) until after the fast [of Tish’a B’Av], because the blessing must be recited joyously, and we decrease our joy during the Nine Days. Many people are accustomed to saying it immediately after the Ma’ariv prayer at the conclusion of the fast, but it is improper to do so, le’chatchilah. After all, it is difficult to be happy then, when we have yet to drink, eat, wash our faces and hands, or put on [regular] shoes. Therefore, [each community] should set a time – an hour or two after the fast – for the recitation of Birkat HaLevanah, and in the meantime, everyone will [have a chance to] eat something and wash up. This way, they will be able to say the blessing joyously. Where there is concern that pushing off Birkat HaLevanah may cause some people to forget to say it, [the congregation] may say it immediately after the fast, but it is best to take a drink and wash one’s face beforehand.[26]


[25]. The ones who rule strictly are the Maharshal, Bach, Magen Avraham, Eliyah Rabbah, and others. Many people think that the Ashkenazim act stringently on this matter while the Sefardim act leniently. However, this is not apparent from the Acharonim. Many Sefardic [poskim] prohibit laundering, bathing, and haircutting [on the tenth of Av]; these include the Chida (Machazik Berachah 558:1), R. Chayim Palagi (Mo’ed LeChol Chai 10:92), and the Kaf HaChayim (558:6). The authors of Knesset HaGedolah (HaGahot Tur 558) and Ma’amar Mordechai rule leniently. The Bi’ur Halachah writes that one may rely on the lenient opinion under pressing circumstances. This viewpoint is shared by the majority of poskim. See Piskei Teshuvot 558:2. [R. Ovadyah Yosef] rules leniently in Yechaveh Da’at (5:41), while R. [Mordechai] Eliyahu rules stringently (Hilchot Chagim 29:3), adding that one who refrains from laundering, bathing, etc. the entire day of the tenth [of Av] is praiseworthy. The Kaf HaChayim (558:10) concurs.

In general, the status of the tenth of Av is like that of the Nine Days – according to Ashkenazi custom – although slightly more lenient. During the Nine Days, the custom is to limit the number of people invited to a mitzvah-oriented meal in which meat and wine are served. On the tenth of Av, however, we make no such limits (M.B. 558:2). Some chassidim have a custom to make a siyum on the night after Tish’a B’Av, because hidden deep in the day’s essence is happiness, for the redemption begins then; see Piskei Teshuvot 558:1. [The poskim] also permit one to eat a cooked dish that has the taste of meat after the fast (B.H. 558:2). It is proper to refrain from marital relations on the night of the tenth, unless [the wife] immersed in a mikvah that night or [the husband] is going on a trip [the next day] (M.B. 558:2, K.H.C. 558:7).

[26]. We already mentioned this halachah above, 1.16. According to the Maharil, Birkat HaLevanah should be moved to another day. The Rama (426:2) writes that if Tish’a B’Av falls out on a Thursday, Birkat HaLevanah should be postponed until Saturday night, but if [the fast] falls out on any other day, [the blessing] should be recited the next night. However, most Acharonim write that one should not delay the mitzvah. Rather, one must sanctify the New Moon immediately after Tish’a B’Av. The following works express this viewpoint: Knesset HaGedolah, Pri Chadash, Chida, Chayei Adam, and Mishnah Berurah (426:11). Some add another reason: we are slightly happy on the night after Tish’a B’Av, because [our tradition tells us that] Mashiach is born on Tish’a B’Av; therefore, it is fitting to sanctify the moon then. Nonetheless, the Mishnah Berurah (ibid.) and other Acharonim write that it is proper to eat and put on [regular] shoes before [reciting the blessing]. See Torat HaMo’adim 11:1, Piskei Teshuvot 551:31, and above 1.16.

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