9 – The Eve of Tish’a B’Av

1 – The Meal Before the Fast (Seudah HaMafseket)

One may not eat two cooked dishes during the last meal before the fast of Tish’a B’Av(Ta’anit 26b), because that is when our mourning over the churban intensifies, and it is inappropriate, [at such a time], to dignify oneself by indulging in two cooked items. One cooked dish, however, [is permitted, because it] does not involve any special pleasure. It is also forbidden to eat meat or drink wine [at this meal] (ibid.), because these are distinguished foods that make one happy. Indeed, the custom nowadays is to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine from the beginning of Av (see above 8.13); nonetheless, the prohibition to eat these items up until the seudah ha’mafseket is based on a custom from the time of the Rishonim, while the prohibition to eat them during the last meal is Rabbinically ordained. Therefore, a sick person or a postpartum woman, whom meat can strengthen, may eat meat during the nine days, but not at the seudah ha’mafseket[1].

What is the seudah ha’mafseket? It is the last meal before the fast, eaten after midday. Thus, if one eats his last meal before midday, he may eat two cooked dishes. The prevalent custom is to eat a regular meal, with several dishes, in the afternoon, and then to eat the seudah ha’mafseket, with only one cooked dish, shortly before the fast. One should not be crafty and eat a [full] meal, with several dishes, close to the fast, recite Birkat HaMazone (Grace After Meals), wait a few minutes, and then eat another meal, so that the latter will be considered the seudah ha’mafseket.

Ex post facto (b’di’avad), however, if the hour is late and one did not manage to eat a full meal in the afternoon, and he is concerned that it will be difficult to fast without eating several cooked dishes beforehand, he may eat a full meal, go to synagogue and pray Minchah, and then return home to eat the seudah ha’mafseket. He should only be careful not to eat so much during the first meal that he has no appetite to eat the seudah ha’mafseket(Sh.A. and Rama 552:9, M.B. 22).


[1]. Even though a sick person is exempt from fasting on Tish’a B’Av, he should eat only simple foods. Therefore, he should not eat meat or two cooked dishes at the seudah ha’mafseket. See below 10.3, as well as [Hilchot Chag BeChag by] Rabbi [Moshe M.] Karp, 6:4. Only one who receives an explicit medical directive to eat meat or drink wine may do so.

It should be noted that according to the Gemara, Ta’anit 30a, one is allowed to eat meat preserved in salt and drink grape juice at the seudah ha’mafseket, because they do not bring joy. However, it is obvious that since the custom is to forbid [all types of meat and wine] starting from the first of Av, one may not eat these items at the seudah ha’mafseket.

2 – Which Foods are Prohibited?

During the seudah ha’mafseket, one may eat an unlimited amount of raw foods, like fruits and vegetables. If one cooks them, however, they are considered a cooked dish, despite the fact that they are edible without cooking.

Cheese, yogurt, butter, and all other milk products that undergo pasteurization are not considered cooked, because they are boiled for health reasons, not in order to improve their taste (Sh.A. 552:4, Ba’er Heiteiv 5, K.H.Ch. 13).

If one cooks carrots and potatoes together, he may not eat both species [during the seudah ha’mafseket], because they are [considered] two cooked items. Rather, he should eat either of the two. Similarly, noodles cooked with cheese, or lentils cooked with eggs, constitute a mixture of two cooked foods and may not be eaten together. Even if one prepares two dishes using the same food item, the only difference being that one is made thin and the other thick, they are considered two cooked dishes. Similarly, hard-boiled and soft-boiled eggs are considered two dishes. However, a dish that is typically made by mixing two food items, one of which is the main ingredient while the other [merely] adds taste – like rice made with a touch of onions – is considered one dish (Sh.A. 552:3).

The prohibition applies to both cooked and fried foods, but baked goods – like bread and cake – are not forbidden, for their main purpose is to satiate a person (Eshel Avraham of Buchach). Some refrain from eating cake so as not to derive too much pleasure from the seudah ha’mafseket. Pizza is considered a cooked dish because of the cheese on top.

It is proper to refrain from eating chocolate, snacks, and sweets at the seudah ha’mafseket, because the entire purpose of these foods is self-gratification, not satiety (see Rama 552:1). However, if there is nothing else with which to satiate oneself, it is permissible to eat these items.

Some say that one should avoid pickled foods, like pickled cucumbers, so as not to derive too much pleasure from the seudah ha’mafseket. Besides which, they might be considered cooked foods (Sheyarei Knesset HaGedolah, K.H.Ch. 552:26). Others maintain that pickled foods are permissible (A.H.Sh. 552:7).

It is permissible to eat fresh salad seasoned will oil and spices at the seudah ha’mafseket. Some, however, recommend not eating fresh salad, so as not to derive too much pleasure from the seudah ha’mafseket(Chida, K.H.Ch. 552:11).

The [prevalent] custom is not to eat fish at the seudah ha’mafseket, because it is considered a distinguished food, similar to meat. Some are lenient when it comes to salt-herring and sardines, which were not previously cooked (see Sh.A. 552:2, K.H.Ch. 18).

Cooked beverages are not considered cooked dishes. Therefore, according to the letter of the law, one may drink beer, ale, coffee, and tea at the seudah ha’mafseket. However, many poskim rule that one should act strictly, le’chatchilah, and refrain from drinking these beverages, so as not to derive too much pleasure from this meal. One who drinks beer at every meal, and has difficulty digesting food without it, may drink beer at this meal as well. Coffee and tea are less important than alcoholic beverages; therefore, one who feels a need to drink them may do so. However, if one is easily able to do without them, it is preferable not to drink them. If it is necessary, one may drink sweet drinks, like cola, but one should not drink them just to indulge[2].


[2]. See Rama 552:1; M.B. 4; Torat HaMo’adim 6:5, 6:10; Rav Karp’s [work] 6:6, 6:10.

3 – Customs of the Seudah HaMafseket

The Talmud (Ta’anit 30a) relates how R. Yehudah son of R. Illa’i used to act at his seudah ha’mafseket: [his attendants] would bring him dry bread with salt, and he would sit in a disgraceful place – between the furnace and the oven – and eat it, while drinking a jug of water; and he would appear as one whose close relative just died. The Rambam also conducted himself stringently in this matter, eating bread and water at this meal, without even one cooked dish.

We advise the masses, however, to eat fruits and vegetables as well, in order to garner strength for the fast. Many people follow the custom to eat – as their one cooked food – hard-boiled eggs, whose round shape alludes to the cycle of life, which is why mourners eat them. There is no prohibition against eating two eggs. Others eat a lentil dish, for it, too, is a mourner’s food (Sh.A. 552:5-6).

In order to demonstrate our lowliness as a result of the churban, the custom is to sit on the floor during the seudah ha’mafseket, but one need not remove his or her shoes (ibid. 552:7). Some say, based on Kabbalah, that one should place a cloth separation between himself and the floor. Some are strict on this issue even if the floor is tiled (see K.H.Ch. 552:39). One who finds it hard to sit on the floor, sick people, the elderly, and postpartum or pregnant women may sit on a chair, but it is preferable not to sit in one’s regular seat (see ibid. 38).

Every [member of the house] should sit alone in a corner while eating the seudah ha’mafseket, because it says in reference to a mourner, Let him sit alone and be silent(Eichah 3:28). Even if three men sit together in one place, they do not join together for a zimmun, because each one is considered to be alone (Sh.A. 552:8, M.B. 19).

After midday on the eve of Tish’a B’Av, one should ideally learn only sad topics that are related to Tish’a B’Av or the laws of mourning. However, one who is worried that limiting his learning specifically to these topics will curtail his learning should preferably learn whatever his heart desires (see Rama 553:2, M.B. 8).

One may continue to eat, if he so desires, after finishing the seudah ha’mafseket, because the fast begins at sunset, not when the meal ends. Similarly, none of the laws of mourning apply until sunset, unless one resolves to begin the fast early (Sh.A. 553:1, see M.B. 2).

One may continue to eat, if he so desires, after finishing the seudah ha’mafseket, because the fast begins at sunset, not when the meal ends. Similarly, none of the laws of mourning apply until sunset, unless one resolves to begin the fast early (Sh.A. 553:1, see M.B. 2).

4 – The Transition Between Shabbat and Tish’a B’Av When the Fast Falls Out on Sunday

The rule is that we do not mourn on the Sabbath. Therefore, even if Tish’a B’Av falls out on Shabbat, we postpone the fast until Sunday, and on that Shabbat one may eat meat, drink wine, and serve a meal fit for a king. We also sing Shabbat songs as usual, because there is no mourning on the Sabbath. Obviously, this law also applies when Tish’a B’Av falls out on Sunday; meaning, we treat the Sabbath [immediately] preceding the fast like any other Shabbat.

However, there is an intermediate time between Shabbat and the fast, during which Shabbat has not yet ended but the prohibitions of the fast have already begun. This happens because we are unsure when one day ends and the next day begins – at sunset or when the stars emerge. Therefore, the period between sunset and the emergence of the stars is ambiguous, being possibly day and possibly night. It is called “bein hashmashot” (twilight). And since there is a mitzvah to add [time] onto Shabbat, the holy day continues until a few minutes after the stars emerge. Consequently, the time between sunset and shortly after the emergence of the stars is both Shabbat and [Tish’a B’Av]. During that time, it is forbidden to do anything that would appear like a custom of mourning, because we do not mourn on the Sabbath. On the other hand, after sunset, we avoid doing anything that is not necessary for the sake of Shabbat, like eating, drinking, washing, and anointing.

Therefore, we eat the third Sabbath meal (seudah shlishit) like we do on any other Shabbat, including the singing of Sabbath songs. However, we stop eating and drinking before sunset, because there is no obligation – from a Shabbat perspective – to continue eating seudah shlishit after sunset (Sh.A. 552:10, see M.B. 23). It is also fitting not to sing joyous songs after sunset, and doing so does not constitute an expression of mourning, for people do not generally sing happy songs every moment of Shabbat. We also refrain from washing and anointing ourselves after sunset; after all, we do not bathe [or anoint ourselves] on Shabbat anyway. However, one who relieves himself during bein hashmashot should wash his hands normally, for if he [washes as is required on the fast], he is, in effect, mourning on the Sabbath.

We remain in our Sabbath clothing, keep our shoes on, and continue to sit on chairs and greet each other until a few minutes after three, mid-sized stars appear in the sky. Then, we say Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol (Blessed is He Who separates between the holy and the mundane), by which we take leave of the Sabbath. Afterwards, we remove our shoes, take off our Sabbath garments, and change into weekday clothes. One should wear clothing that was already worn the previous week, because one may not wear freshly laundered clothing on Tish’a B’Av[3].

[Many communities have a] custom to delay Ma’ariv until around fifteen minutes after Shabbat ends, in order to give everyone time to take leave of the Sabbath at home, remove their shoes, change their clothes, and come to the synagogue for Ma’ariv and the reading of Eichah in weekday clothes.


[3]. Some people have a custom to remove their shoes at sunset, provided that they do so without letting others know that it is for the sake of mourning. Nonetheless, the prevalent custom is to remove one’s shoes only after Shabbat has ended. See [Hilchot Chag BeChag], chap. 8, notes 2 and 7, where R. Karp explains, based on [the words of] the Gra, that one may not afflict oneself on Shabbat; therefore, it is permissible to wash and anoint oneself until Shabbat ends. According to the accepted custom, however, one should refrain from doing anything that is not recognizable as an act of mourning or self-affliction. Therefore, one should not, le’chatchilah, wash or anoint oneself [during bein hashmashot], but one should wash his hands normally after using the bathroom. That is, one should wash his entire hand, and not just his fingers, as one washes on Tish’a B’Av.

5 – Havdalah on Tish’a B’Av When it Falls Out on Saturday Night

The fast begins immediately after Shabbat, making it is impossible to say havdalah over a cup of wine. Therefore, we postpone saying this form of havdalah until after the fast. Nevertheless, we say havdalah – “Ata Chonantanu” – in the Ma’ariv prayers, after which we are permitted to do work. Some say that woman should pray Ma’ariv on such a Saturday night, in order to make havdalah in Ata Chonantanu. Women who do not [follow this practice] should say, Baruch ha’mavdil bein kodesh le’chol, after which they are permitted to do work (M.B. 556:2).

In addition, we recite the blessing over fire on [such a] Saturday night, because this blessing is not dependent on the cup of wine. Rather, it is an expression of thanks [to God] for creating fire, which was revealed to Adam on [the first] motzai Shabbat (Saturday night). The custom is to recite the blessing after Ma’ariv, before the reading of Eichah, because people light candles at that time. Women also recite the blessing over fire. One who procrastinates and fails to make a blessing over a candle at the beginning of the evening may say the blessing all night long, for the entire night of motzai Shabbat is the [proper] time for this blessing.

At the end of the fast, before eating or drinking, one must say havdalah over a cup [of wine], which includes two blessings: Al hagefen (on the wine) and HaMavdil (He Who separates). No blessing is made on spices or fire.

I will elaborate: The Rabbis enacted that one may not do work on Saturday night, even though the stars have already emerged, before reciting some form of havdalah, like Ata chonantanu, and that one may not eat before saying havdalah over a cup. Therefore, on a Saturday night [that coincides with Tish’a B’Av], it is sufficient to make a verbal havdalah, which allows us to do work. Then, when Tish’a B’Av ends and we need to eat, we say havdalah over a cup.

Therefore, a sick person, who needs to eat on Tish’a B’Av, must say havdalah over a cup before eating. [In such a case], it is proper to use chamar medinah [a distinguished beverage other than wine] (preferably something intoxicating, but any ubiquitous drink, like coffee, will do; see Peninei Halachah, Shabbat, vol. 1, 8:4). If one has no such beverage, he should say havdalah over grape juice, and if even that is unavailable, he should say havdalahbe’di’avad – on wine and drink a cheek full (around 40 ml.). If a minor, who has reached the age at which we teach him to recite blessings, is present, it is best to let him drink the wine instead of the sick person. A minor who eats on Tish’a B’Av need not say havdalah before eating (see Piskei Teshuvot 557:31).

Therefore, a sick person, who needs to eat on Tish’a B’Av, must say havdalah over a cup before eating. [In such a case], it is proper to use chamar medinah [a distinguished beverage other than wine] (preferably something intoxicating, but any ubiquitous drink, like coffee, will do; see Peninei Halachah, Shabbat, vol. 1, 8:4). If one has no such beverage, he should say havdalah over grape juice, and if even that is unavailable, he should say havdalahbe’di’avad – on wine and drink a cheek full (around 40 ml.). If a minor, who has reached the age at which we teach him to recite blessings, is present, it is best to let him drink the wine instead of the sick person. A minor who eats on Tish’a B’Av need not say havdalah before eating (see Piskei Teshuvot 557:31).