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Peninei Halakha > Zemanim > 10 - The Laws of Tish’a B’Av

10 – The Laws of Tish’a B’Av

1 – Instituting the Fast of Tish’a B’Av

As we already learned (6.1), the prophets instituted four fasts after the destruction of the First Temple, the gravest of which is Tish’a B’Av, for that is when the Temple was destroyed (for more on the meaning of the fast, see above, 6.4). These fast were instituted along the lines of Yom Kippur, which lasts an entire day and contains five prohibitions. When the Second Temple was built, these fasts were annulled, and they became joyous holidays. And when that Temple was destroyed, the four fasts returned to their original status.

After the period of harsh decrees ended and a new era began, in which the Temple was still in ruins but evil decrees no longer plagued us, the Sages determined that the law of three of the fasts – the tenth of Tevet, the seventeenth of Tammuz, and Tzom Gedalyah – depended on Israel’s will: “If they want to fast, they do so; if they do not want [to fast], they do not fast.”

On Tish’a B’Av, however, we are obligated to fast under all circumstances, because many tragedies befell the Jewish people on that day, including the destruction of both Temples. Even when times are tranquil, its status is not dependent on Israel’s will. Rather, as long as the Temple sits in ruins, we must fast on that day, as the prophets enacted (Rosh HaShanah 18b).

This is the fundamental difference between Tish’a B’Av and the minor fasts. Our obligation to fast on Tish’a B’Av is based on an institution of the prophets; therefore all the laws of the fast apply in their entirety. On the minor fasts, however, our obligation is based on custom – because [all of] Israel agreed to fast [on these days], until the Temple is rebuilt – and from the very outset, the accepted custom was to treat them more leniently than Tish’a B’Av (as we explained above, 7.1).[1]

[1]See above, 7:1-2, with note 1, [where we explained] that the definition of “peace” is when the Beit HaMikdash is built; only then will Tish’a B’Av be canceled. My assertion that [the obligation to fast on] Tish’a B’Av does not depend on Israel’s will is taken from the Ramban’s Torat HaAdam, p. 244. This is also the opinion of Rashi, the Eshkol, the Itur, the Smak, the Maggid Mishnah, and others. However, there are those – the Rashba and the Ritva – who hold that in the intermediate situation, [when the Temple is still destroyed, but evil decrees have ceased], we are exempt from fasting on Tish’a B’Av, as well. It’s just that the Jews decided to observe Tish’a B’Av as a full fast, in accordance with the original enactment, because of the numerous tragedies that occurred on that day. Nonetheless, the accepted practice is to rule like the majority of Rishonim and Acharonim, [who hold] that the fast of Tish’a B’Av is not dependent on [anyone’s] will. Rather, it is an obligation instituted by the prophets. See Torat HaMo’adim, pp. 3-4 and 246, [where the author] lists the various opinions [on this issue].

2 – General Rules of the Fasts

There are three halachic differences between Tish’a B’Av and the minor fasts: 1) Tish’a B’Av lasts an entire day, from sunset until the emergence of the stars [the next day], while the minor fasts last only during daylight hours – from daybreak until the emergence of the stars. 2) On Tish’a B’Av, we are forbidden to do five things: a) eat and drink, b) wash ourselves, c) anoint our bodies, d) wear [leather] shoes, and e) engage in marital relations. On the minor fasts, however, we are only forbidden to eat and drink. 3) Only sick people are exempt from fasting on Tish’a B’Av, whereas pregnant and nursing women, as well, are exempt from the other fasts.

In general, the fast of Tish’a B’Av is equal to that of Yom Kippur, for any enactment the Rabbis made regarding Tish’a B’Av was modeled after the Torah’s commandments regarding Yom Kippur. Therefore, Tish’a B’Av has the same five prohibitions that are mentioned in reference to Yom Kippur. Nonetheless, since the fast of Tish’a B’Av is a Rabbinic enactment, its laws are more lenient in two major ways: 1) The Rabbis did not require the sick to fast on Tish’a B’Av. In contrast, someone who is ill on Yom Kippur must fast, unless doing so would put his life in danger. 2) In situations of doubt, one should act strictly on Yom Kippur, but one may be lenient when it comes to Tish’a B’Av. For the rule is, when in doubt regarding a Torah law, one should be strict, but when in doubt regarding a Rabbinic law, the halachah follows the more lenient opinion.

However, Tish’a B’Av is more stringent than Yom Kippur in a certain way. On Tish’a B’Av, we are obligated to mourn. Therefore, we sit on the floor, refrain from greeting one another, darken the room at night, and limit our Torah study to sad topics. On Yom Kippur, in contradistinction, we are obligated only to deprive ourselves, but besides the five afflictions, the day is considered a holiday: We wear nice clothing, sit on [regular] seats, sing songs, exchange greetings with one another, and of course, engage in Torah study with no limits. (Unrelated to self-affliction, one is forbidden to do work on Yom Kippur, in accordance with all the laws of Shabbat.)

3 – Eating and Drinking and the Laws of Sick People and Postpartum Women

We already expounded upon the prohibition against eating and drinking vis-à-vis the minor fasts (above, 7.5-7), and we learned that there is a difference between them and Tish’a B’Av: the minor fasts begin at daybreak, while Tish’a B’Av begins at sunset. There is no difference, however, regarding the fundamental prohibition against eating and drinking.

We also learned that the sick are exempt from fasting on Tish’a B’Av (the definition of “sick” is explained above, 7.7); and they need not eat less than the minimum measure. Only on Yom Kippur, which is biblically ordained and which even the sick are obligated to keep, must one eat less than the minimum measure, when possible, to avoid breaking the fast. On Rabbinically instituted fasts, however, the sick are completely exempt; therefore, they need not eat less than the minimum measure or fast for a few hours. Nevertheless, several Acharonim write that, if possible, it is appropriate for sick people to act stringently and refrain from eating and drinking on the night of Tish’a B’Av, in order to join in the community’s pain. In the morning, though, they are allowed to eat and drink according to their needs, with no limitations.[2]

A woman within thirty days of childbirth is considered ill, because she has not yet sufficiently regained her strength. Therefore, she is exempt from fasting (Sh.A. 551:6).[3]

A woman who has a miscarriage and feels weak has the same status as a woman after childbirth and is exempt from the fast of Tish’a B’Av, if it occurs thirty days after her miscarriage.

Those who are exempt from fasting should be careful to eat only simple foods that are needed for their health, not delicacies and treats for the sake of self-gratification. The poskim debate whether or not one [who is permitted to eat] says Nachem in Birkat HaMazone.[4]

[2]Some rule stringently on this issue: Bi’ur Halachah, 554:6, quotes [the author of] Pitchei Olam as saying that in a place where cholera is not rampant and the doctors say that people must eat in order to avoid catching the disease, one should eat portions that are less that the minimum measure on Tish’a B’Av. We also find several Acharonim who hold that [the sick] should preferably eat less than the minimum measure, to avoid breaking the fast, so that they can say Anneinu and Nachem (these Acharonim are cited in S’dei Chemed and in Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 10, sec. 25, chap. 16, paragraph 2). Similarly, the Mishnah Berurah (554:14) says in the name of the Eliyah Rabbah that a postpartum woman should preferably fast for a few hours, if possible. The Chatam Sofer, O.C. 157, concurs, saying that if a sick person can suffice with just drinking, he should not eat, and if eating once will satisfy his needs, he should not eat twice. According to Maharil Diskin, Kuntas Acharon 75, there is room to be strict in this matter, not as far as the obligation to fast is concerned, but in order to avoid separating from the community.

In practice, though, we rule that sick people need not fast a few hours, nor do they need to eat portions that are less than the minimum measure. So writes the Aruch HaShulchan 554:7 (end). Furthermore, when the Bi’ur Halachah said that one should eat less than the minimum measure, he was speaking about a person who is not considered sick at all. The authors of Nishmat Avraham (4:554) and Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 10, 25:16) concur. For additional sources, see Piskei Teshuvot 554:9. See also R. Karp’s [work], Hilchot Chag BeChag 7:15, 7:21*. However, several poskim write that it is proper not to eat at night, as cited in Piskei Teshuvot 554:45, 556:21.

In practice: if a sick person wants to be strict on himself and eat portions that are less than the minimum measure, he can say Anneinu and Nachem [in the Minchah prayer]. However, according to the law, there is no need to do so. Nevertheless, there are sick people who prefer drinking less than the minimum measure, in order to participate in the fast. Sometimes, when there is a question whether someone is sick or not, like a pregnant woman who feels weak and is afraid to fast, I instruct him or her to eat and drink portions that are less than the minimum measure, in accordance with the words of the Bi’ur Halachah.

[3]Indeed, the Rama (554:6) writes that a woman should fast seven days after childbirth, unless she is in great pain. And the Mishnah Berurah (554:14) quotes the Magen Avraham as saying that she may act leniently only if Tish’a B’Av is postponed [because it fell out on Shabbat]. Nevertheless, the Aruch HaShulchan (554:7) writes that nowadays a woman should not, God forbid, fast within thirty days of giving birth. Other Ashkenazi poskim rule this way, as well. A woman who acts leniently in this regard does not forfeit anything. See R. Karp’s [work] 7:6 and Piskei Teshuvot 554:7. Regarding a woman who has a miscarriage, see Piskei Teshuvot 617:5.

[4]Many Ashkenazi poskim hold that one says Nachem before the words U’venei Yerushalayim (Rama 557:1). Others raise doubts about this, [claiming] that [Chazal] never instituted the saying [of Nachem in Birkat HaMazone] (Gra, quoted in M.B. 557:5). Still others say that the best advice is to say it after the [four] blessings [of Birkat HaMazone] are finished, together with the HaRachaman prayers (K.H.C. 557:11).

4 – Pregnant and Nursing Women

We have learned that one of the differences between the minor fasts and Tish’a B’Av is that pregnant and nursing women are exempt from the former and obligated in the latter (above 7.8). The reason for this is that only the sick are exempt from fasting on Tish’a B’Av, and pregnant and nursing women – despite their various aches and pains – are not considered sick (Sh.A. 554:5). If, however, they experience extraordinary weakness, their status is like that of a sick person, and they are exempt from fasting on Tish’a B’Av.

For example, a pregnant woman who suffers from excessive vomiting or dizziness is considered ill and need not fast. Similarly, a pregnant woman who is extremely weak – due to a low blood count, for example (less than 10 grams hemoglobin) – is exempt from fasting. It goes without saying that one should not fast if doing so could possibly cause a miscarriage. A woman who is unsure whether or not she is considered ill should begin the fast. Then, if she starts feeling very weak, her status changes from that of a regular pregnant woman to that of a sick person, allowing her to eat and drink.[5]

As we learned, a nursing woman is obligated to fast on Tish’a B’Av. And even though it is harder for her to fast, because nursing depletes one’s liquids, that does not put her in the category of a sick person. The baby doesn’t suffer from the fast either, for if its mother is one of those whose milk does not decrease when she fasts, the baby will certainly not feel any difference. And even if the mother’s milk supply decreases when she fasts, she can supplement her baby’s diet with sweetened water or hot cereal, such that the baby will not suffer as a result of the fast.[6] The best advice for most women whose milk decreases is to skip two feedings in alternating fashion. That is, a woman who nurses every three hours should feed her baby at 10:00 a.m., give him a bottle at 1:00 p.m., nurse again at 4:00 p.m., and give him another bottle at 7:00 p.m. This way, she will not suffer too much from fasting and her milk will not diminish. A nursing woman may eat and drink if she feels so weak that her status changes from a [mere] nursing woman to a sick person.

[5]There are those who rule that if a pregnant woman suffers as a result of extraordinarily hot weather, she is exempt from fasting (Rabbi S. Z. Auerbach). Others are even more lenient, exempting all pregnant women [from fasting altogether], either because heat waves [can occur] or because people in general are weaker nowadays (as cited in Halichot Beitah 25, note 3). Nevertheless, I wrote [above] the practical halachah according to the letter of the law, as formulated in the Gemara (Pesachim 54b), the Shulchan Aruch, and the Acharonim. See Torat HaMo’adim 7:3, Piskei Teshuvot 554:5, Hilchot Chag BeChag 7:4, and Torat HaYoledet 48:4:6.

[6]A mother who feeds her baby breast milk alone, and her milk diminishes when she fasts, should stop fasting and feed her baby properly if she is unable to get him to drink milk substitutes or sweetened water from a bottle. Similarly, a woman who is concerned that fasting might cause her milk to stop altogether, making her unable to nurse anymore, should not fast. The author of Torat HaYoledet (48:4) writes that such a woman should drink portions less than the minimum measure, because she is not [really] sick, and the only reason she needs to drink is for her baby.

5 – Washing

Any form of washing for the sake of pleasure is forbidden on Tish’a B’Av, whether the water is hot or cold. One may not even wash a small part of his body; it is even forbidden to dip one finger in water. But someone who got mud, feces, or blood on himself may wash the soiled area, because his intention is not to pamper himself (Sh.A. O.C. 554:9). Similarly, a woman who needs to change her child’s diaper may wash the soiled area, even though her hand will get washed in the process. She may even use soap if the filth or odor does not come off with water alone.

A woman who is preparing food with which to break the fast, or for her children, may rinse food items or dishes, because she is not washing for the sake of pleasure. And even though some pleasure is derived every time one washes a soiled area of the body, it is not considered washing for the sake of pleasure, since her main intent is to remove the filth.

Someone who perspired excessively, to the point where he is very bothered and distressed, may wash the sweaty area, because his intention is not to get pleasure (M.B. 613:2, Sha’ar HaTziyun 4).

In addition, someone who is very sensitive and cannot orientate himself in the morning until he washes his face may do so with [plain] water. One who is always accustomed to using water to remove the crusty discharge that builds up in the eyes overnight may do so [on Tish’a B’Av] (Sh.A. 554:11, M.B. 22).

It is forbidden to rinse one’s mouth on Tish’a B’Av. Nevertheless, one who will be very distressed if he does not do so, may rinse out his mouth and brush his teeth, without toothpaste, on Tish’a B’Av. On Yom Kippur, however, when the obligation to fast is biblical, one should not be lenient on this issue (see above, 7.5, note 6).

A bride within the first thirty days of her marriage may wash her face and apply any lotion she needs, to avoid making herself unattractive to her husband (M.B. 554:29, Sha’ar HaTziyun 38).

One may take a slightly damp towel and run it across one’s face, hands, and feet, because the prohibition of washing does not apply to such a small amount of moisture. The only condition is that the towel not be tofei’ach al menat le’hatpi’ach, meaning, it cannot be so wet that it could moisten one’s hand to the extent that his hand could then moisten something else (Rama 554:14, M.B. 27).

6 – Mitzvah-Related Washing

It is permissible to wash one’s hands for the sake of a mitzvah, because it is not for pleasure purposes. Therefore, kohanim (“priests”) may wash their hands fully, in preparation for the priestly blessings (Rama 613:3, Sh.A. 128:6). However, one is not permitted to immerse in a mikveh on Tish’a B’Av.[7]

Upon awakening in the morning, everyone is obligated to wash his or her hands up until the joints connecting the fingers to the palm of the hand, because an evil spirit rests on one’s hands after a night’s sleep, and it can cause harm to the orifices of the body. In order to remove this spirit, one must wash each hand three times, alternately. After using the bathroom, one should wash his hands again, once, and recite the blessing Al netillat yadayim, because the Sages instituted a mitzvah to wash one’s hands, with a blessing, in preparation for the morning prayers (Shacharit). And even though we are usually careful to wash the entire hand, on Tish’a B’Av one should wash only up to the joints connecting the fingers to the palm, because according to the letter of the law, that is sufficient both in terms of preparing for Shacharit and in order to remove the evil spirit (Sh.A. 613:2).[8]

Throughout the year, one should preferably wash his hands three times before every prayer service. Nevertheless, on Tish’a B’Av, one should not wash his hands before praying, because doing so is not obligatory. However, one who touched filthy parts of his body and wants to recite holy words should wash his hands, because he is doing so for the sake of a mitzvah, not in order to derive pleasure (M.B. 613:5-6, K.H.C. 6).

There is uncertainty regarding the law of someone who relieves himself without touching any part of the body that is usually covered, for perhaps he does not need to wash, seeing that he did not touch any filth. In order to avoid the quandary, it is best to touch a usually-covered part of the body – which have flecks of sweat – when using the bathroom. This way, everyone would agree that one may wash his hands until the upper knuckles, in order to say the blessing of Asher Yatzar in cleanliness (Sh.A. 613:3, M.B. 4).[9]

[7]The mitzvah for a niddah (menstrual woman) to immerse herself in a mikveh at the first halachically-acceptable opportunity does not override the prohibition against washing on Tish’a B’Av. Similarly, a man who is accustomed to immersing in a mikveh in order to remove keri defilement (caused by the emission of semen) may not immerse on Tish’a B’Av, because a pious custom does not override the prohibition against washing (B.Y., Sh.A. 554:8, 613:11).

[8]According to most poskim, one need not wash one’s hands more than once after using the bathroom; but some people are accustomed to washing three times (see M.B. 4:39). Those who always wash three times may do so on Tish’a B’Av, as well, because this washing is for the sake of purification and a mitzvah, not pleasure. (See Peninei Halachah, Tefillah 8.3-5. Also see note 2, where R. Ovadyah Yosef is quoted as saying that there is no need to hurry and wash one’s hands three times before relieving oneself in the morning. According to him, one washes three times and recites the blessing only after relieving oneself.)

[9]Some say that a person who touches a covered part of the body with one finger should wash only that hand until the upper knuckles (Ch.A. 40:18, M.B. 613:6). Others hold that he must wash both hands (Shelah, Yafeh LaLev; see also K.H.C. 4:86). The same authorities dispute a case in which someone touches his shoe – even if it is made of cloth – with one finger. There are many other uncertainties regarding these laws. For example, does someone who touches a normally-covered area that [nonetheless] has no sweat particles need to wash his hands (see Peninei Halachah, Tefillah 5, note 2)? Furthermore, according to the letter of the law, one who touches body parts that are usually covered may [simply] rub his hands [on anything that cleans] and then say words of holiness (Sh.A. 4:23, M.B. 61). Why, then, do we not do so on Yom Kippur and Tish’a B’Av? In practice, it appears that if, in a specific situation, one generally acts strictly throughout the year and washes his hands, he should also wash them on Tish’a B’Av, for he is doing so for the sake of a mitzvah. If, however, he sometimes makes do with rubbing his hands on his clothing [or the like], he should do the same on Tish’a B’Av. If someone touches a normally-covered area of his body and now wants to pray, he should wash his hands, because that is the halachah, as explained in Peninei Halachah, Tefillah 5.2. One who touches a usually-covered area [of the body] with one finger while using the facilities should wash both hands; and it seems that everyone would agree with this. After all, many authorities hold that one must wash both hands upon leaving a bathroom, even if he did not relieve himself or touch a normally-covered body part (see B.H. 613:3). One who touches mud with his finger should wash only the soiled area, because there is no evil spirit here that spreads to the rest of the hand. See Piskei Teshuvot 613:2.

7 – Anointing, Smelling Spices, and Smoking

It is forbidden to apply oil or cream [on Tish’a B’Av] even to a small area of the body. One is also forbidden to use cosmetics, like powders or salves, to beautify the skin or provide a nice fragrance. This prohibition applies specifically to anointing for the sake of pleasure; applying creams for medicinal purposes, however, is permitted. Therefore, one may apply Vaseline to dry lips or put on an anti-itch cream (Sh.A. 554:15). One may, similarly, put on mosquito repellant.[10]

One may not smell spices on Tish’a B’Av, because doing so is pleasurable and one should curtail one’s pursuit of pleasures on the day on which our Holy Temple was destroyed. Granted, there are [halachic authorities] who rule leniently [on this issue] because [smelling fragrances] is not one of the five prohibitions (M.A.); nonetheless, most poskim hold that one should act strictly on Tish’a B’Av (Sh.A. 559:7, Sha’ar HaTziyun 556:1). See the footnote regarding smoking.[11]

[10]The Bi’ur Halachah (554:15) explains that there is a distinction between Yom Kippur and Tish’a B’Av regarding the prohibition of anointing. On Yom Kippur, the prohibition also includes non-pleasurable anointing, as the Yerushalmi indicates. Therefore, one may not apply, on Yom Kippur, a salve for the purpose of removing filth. On Tish’a B’Av, however, the prohibition is a function of the laws of mourning. Therefore, only anointing for the sake of pleasure is prohibited, while anointing in order to remove filth is permissible. The Bi’ur Halachah thus rejects the opinion of the Mateh Yehudah, who equates Tish’a B’Av and Yom Kippur in regard to this prohibition.

[11]The author of Shiyurei Knesset HaGedolah (551, 567) writes that it is forbidden to smoke on fast days, because smoking alleviates the anxiety of the churban and generates a feeling of satiation; it even causes a desecration of God’s name, for the Gentiles refrain from smoking on their fast days. According to many [other poskim], however, there is no prohibition against smoking, from the perspective of the fast day, especially for someone who needs it to relieve agitation. The Mishnah Berurah (555:8) permits smoking after midday, in private, for one who needs it. Many others allow it even before midday, in private, for one who needs it. [R. Ovadyah Yosef] cites [these poskim] in Yabi’a Omer 1:33. The author of Hilchot Chag BeChag (7:87) writes that the authorities who forbid smoking are not referring to cigarettes, but to a type of smoking that entails more pleasure and involvement; see there. However, now that it has become clear that smoking is detrimental to a person’s health, it is forbidden to accustom oneself to smoking, and one who is already addicted must do everything he can to quit.

8 – Wearing Shoes

On Tish’a B’Av, it is forbidden to wear sandals or shoes made from leather. According to many authorities, only leather shoes are forbidden, while those made from other materials, like rubber and plastic, are permissible, even if they are as good as leather shoes (Rif, Rosh).

Others hold that the prohibition applies to any comfortable shoe that keeps its wearer from feeling the roughness of the road (Razah). At the time of Chazal, only leather shoes were considered good. No one made good shoes from other materials; consequently, the prohibition did not apply to such shoes. Today, however, when [manufacturers] make shoes and sandals from other materials, and they are as good as their leather counterparts, one is forbidden to wear them on Tish’a B’Av. According to this opinion, one may not wear sneakers, “Source” (Shoresh) sandals, or the like on Tish’a B’Av, but one may walk around in slippers or canvas shoes with a thin sole, for one can feel the roughness of the road in them.

In practice, the accepted ruling is that non-leather footwear is permissible. Nonetheless, one who can, without difficulty, make do with slippers or canvas shoes that do not fully protect the feet should act stringently (M.B. 614:5).

Even according to the lenient opinion, one should not walk around in shoes or sandals made from synthetic leather, which look like [the real thing], because of mar’it ayin (doing something that appears to be forbidden).

A sick person or a postpartum woman, who are liable to catch a cold if they walk barefoot, may wear leather shoes. Similarly, one who [needs to] walk in a place where there is a possible danger of scorpions, or the like, may wear leather shoes. So too, one who [needs to] walk in a muddy place may wear regular shoes in order to avoid soiling his feet. A soldier on active duty may wear army boots (Sh.A. 554:17, 614:3-4). [The reason for all these leniencies is] because wearing shoes or sandals is prohibited [on Tish’a B’Av] only if one wears them for the sake of walking or comfort, but when there is another reason for wearing them, the prohibition does not apply. However, even when it is halachically permissible to wear shoes, one should not wear leather shoes if he can suffice with non-leather ones. After all, one may be lenient only when there is a need, and there is no need to wear leather shoes when one has shoes made from some other material.[12]

[12]According to Rashi and Rabbeinu Yerucham, the prohibition applies to wooden shoes as well, because their soles are hard and one who walks in them does not feel the roughness of the road. R. Zerachyah HaLevi (Razah) holds that any shoe that protects the feet is prohibited, no matter what material it is made of. The Talmud’s statement (Yoma 78b) that cork and rubber [shoes] are permissible [does not contradict this], for they did not protect the feet like [regular] shoes did. According to these [authorities], one may not wear shoes or sandals in which people regularly walk, even if they are made from materials other [than leather]. It is possible to infer from [the words of] other Rishonim, as well, that one may not wear good shoes in which the roughness of the road cannot be felt, no matter what material they are made of. However, the Beit Yosef writes (614:2) that the Rif and the Rosh hold that the prohibition applies only to leather shoes, as the simple reading of the Gemara indicates. This is [his] conclusion in the Shulchan Aruch, as well. The author of Responsa Maharshag (2:113) also explains [the matter] this way, as does the Ari [z”l], who explains why leather alone is forbidden: because “it is the secret of the skin garments of Original Man (Adam) [which were made from] the skin of the snake” (Pri Etz Chayim, Sha’ar Yom HaKippurim, chap. 4). I would add that leather shoes and sandals are considered superior even today. See Hilchot Chag B’Chag, 23:48 and 23:26, where R. Karp is inclined to rule strictly. [See] also Ohalah Shel Torah, O.C. 81. R. [Shlomo Zalman] Auerbach permits [shoes made of] other materials, because we are sensitive [nowadays], but he rules strictly when it comes to synthetic leather (Halichot Shlomo 5:16-17). R. [Mordechai] Eliyahu (Hilchot Chagim 45:38-39) is also inclined to rule leniently, as is the author of Torat HaMo’adim (13:10). These authorities rule leniently regarding Yom Kippur, which entails a possible Torah [transgression], all the more so regarding Tish’a B’Av.

Wooden shoes that are overlaid with leather are forbidden according to all opinions (Sh.A. 614:2). Many [poskim] hold that there is no prohibition [against wearing] sandals that have but one, thin strap of leather on top (K.H.C. 614:10).

For more on one who needs to wear leather shoes, see R. Eliyahu’s Hilchot Chagim 45:41-42; Minchat Shlomo vol. 1, 91:25:8; Hilchot Chag BeChag, Hilchot Yom HaKippurim 23:55, 58.

The author of Responsa Chelkat Ya’akov (2:83) permits one who wears orthotics lined with leather to insert them into canvas or rubber shoes, provided that the person suffers greatly when walking without orthotics. His reasoning: the orthotics are not part of the shoe, making the situation similar to one who stands on a leather cushion, which is permitted (Rama 614:2). Furthermore, since [failure to wear orthotics would cause] the person great pain, he can be compared to one who [needs to] walk through mud. See also R. Eliyahu’s Hilchot Chagim 45:41-42; Minchat Shlomo, vol. 1, 91:25:8; Hilchot Chag BeChag, Hilchot Yom HaKippurim 23:55, 58.

9 – Marital Relations

The fifth way in which we afflict ourselves [on Tish’a B’Av] is by refraining from marital relations. In order to avoid stumbling in this matter, a couple must act on the night of Tish’a B’Av as they do when the wife is a niddah (a menstrual woman). That is, they may not touch each other, sleep in the same bed, or pass things to each other from hand to hand, [etc.]. During the day, however, they need not observe all the precautionary measures that are in place when a woman is a niddah, but affectionate touching and sleeping in the same bed are still forbidden.[13]

[13]Sh.A. 554:18. Two conjoined beds are considered one. The Acharonim write that one should act stringently on Tish’a B’Av with regard to all the precautionary measures [that couples keep] during the niddah period, just as one does on Yom Kippur (Sh.A. 615:1). According to the majority of poskim, one should act stringently both on the day and night of Yom Kippur. The Taz holds that one need not be strict during the day of Yom Kippur. When it comes to Tish’a B’Av, however, many poskim write that one need not be careful during the day, because everyone is mourning and the women do not adorn themselves; therefore, there is no reason to fear that [contact between husband and wife] will lead to sexual intercourse (M.B. 554:37, K.H.C. 85). There are those who rule strictly even during the day when it comes to touching (Kitzur Sh.A. 124:12, Hilchot Chagim 26:49). Either way, it seems [to me] that everyone agrees that affectionate touching is forbidden even during the day, as is sleeping in the same bed.

10 – Torah Study

In addition to the five [pleasures] that are forbidden on Tish’a B’Av, there are [other] prohibitions that are connected to the fact that Tish’a B’Av is a day of mourning. Just as a mourner is forbidden to learn Torah during the seven-day mourning period (shivah), one may not learn Torah on Tish’a B’Av, in order not to divert one’s attention from the mourning. Another reason one may not learn Torah during a period of mourning is that Torah study makes one happy, as it says, The commandments of the Lord are upright, rejoicing the heart (Tehillim 19:9). It is even forbidden to learn Torah in thought, because even that makes one happy. However, it is a mitzvah to learn sad sections of the Torah, those that deal with Israel’s suffering and the afflictions that man encounters, for these areas are appropriate for the mood of the day. One should not learn them in depth, though, because such study makes one happy. But if one thinks of a novel idea (a chiddush) while studying a matter superficially, he need not worry, because that is the nature of learning (A.H.Sh. 554:4). And if he comes up with a significant chiddush and is worried that he may forget it by the end of the fast, he may write it down concisely (see K.H.C. 554:110).

One is allowed to learn the following topics: In Tanach, one may study the chapters that describe the churban (destruction), which are found in the books of Melachim, Divrei HaYamim, and Megillat Eichah. One may also learn the prophecies of the churban, which cover most of the book of Yirmiyah, part of Yechezkel, and small portions of Yeshayah and T’rei Asar. However, one should not study the prophecies that predict the destruction of the evil heathens, because they are joyous prophecies from our perspective. It is permissible to study the book of Iyov, which deals with suffering, but one should not study the end of the book [which is joyous]. One may also study the sections of admonition and calamity in the Torah portions of BeChukotai, Ki Tavo, and Ha’azinu. [In all of these cases], one may learn the verses with commentary, in order to understand the simple meaning of the passage, but not in order to delve deeply into it.

Regarding the aggadic sections of the writings of Chazal: one may study the passages dealing with the churban in Tractate Gittin (55b-58a) and [most of] Midrash Eichah Rabbah, skipping the sections that deal with consolation. It is also permissible to study the third chapter of Tractate Mo’ed Kattan, which deals with the laws of mourning and excommunication, as well as the Gemara at the end of Tractate Ta’anit, which discusses the laws of Tish’a B’Av.

In terms of halachic topics: one may study the laws of the three weeks and Tish’a B’Av (Sh.A., O.C. 550-561), as well as the laws of mourning (Sh.A., Y.D. 334-403). If a rabbi receives an urgent question in an area of halachah that one is forbidden to study on Tish’a B’Av, he should answer it without explaining his reasoning (M.B. 554:5).

One may study mussar works [on Tish’a B’Av], even though they quote [biblical] verses and rabbinic statements, because their whole purpose is to awaken a person to repent for his sins. Therefore, the regular joy one feels when learning Torah does not exist here.[14]

Ideally, one should be careful about these laws starting midday of the eve of Tish’a B’Av. But we already learned that one who feels that limiting his learning to these specific topics will curtail his learning should learn whatever his heart desires, until Tish’a B’Av begins (see Rama 553:2; M.B. 8; above 9.3).

One may not read exciting books or newspapers, or study other disciplines on Tish’a B’Av, so as not to divert one’s attention from mourning (A.H.Sh., Y.D. 384:9). It is, however, permissible, and even fitting, to read history books about the churban, the exile, and the hardships that have befallen the Jewish people.

[14]The source for these halachot is Ta’anit 30a and Shulchan Aruch 554:1-3. Regarding works of mussar: some [poskim] say that if a book cites verses and statements of Chazal, one is forbidden to study it (see Piskei Teshuvot 554:2). However, the essential ruling is that it is permissible, as the Meiri maintains. The authors of Torat HaMo’adim (8:18) and Hilchot Chag BeChag (7:57) write likewise in the name of Rabbi Elyashiv. They also explain the different opinions as to what is considered in-depth study, which is forbidden. It seems [to me] that one is forbidden [to study] if the goal is to come up with novel interpretations and understand the deep meaning [of a passage], but if the purpose is to understand [the matter] on a simple level, it is permissible.

The Acharonim debate whether the mitzvah of Torah study applies on Tish’a B’Av and the seven-day mourning period [for the death of a close relative]. The author of Sheivet Yehudah writes that there is no obligation [to learn during these times], while R. Chayim Palagi holds that one is obligated to study the sad sections [mentioned above]. See Yabi’a Omer, vol. 8, Y.D. 35 and Piskei Teshuvot 554:2, 3.

Regarding Torah learning and young children, see below, halachah 21.

11 – Greeting One Another

Mourners are forbidden to greet people (lit., “seek the peace of others”) (Sh.A., Y.D. 385). Likewise, one may not extend greetings to others on Tish’a B’Av (Sh.A., O.C. 5554:20). [After all], just as a person who has lost a close relative is not in a state of “peace,” no one is in a state of “peace” on Tish’a B’Av, because we are mourning the destruction of our Holy Temple.

In particular, Torah students who know the halachah must be careful in this regard. However, when a person unfamiliar with the halachah extends greetings to another, the recipient should return the greeting in a soft voice and serious tone, as one who is preoccupied with thoughts of mourning and sorrow, making sure not to insult the person in the slightest. It is preferable to answer, “Good morning,” and avoid saying, “Shalom” (“Peace [unto you]”). If the person who initiated the greeting is someone who wants to learn Torah, and there is no concern that he will be insulted, one should explain to him that we do not greet each other on Tish’a B’Av.

According to most poskim, one is even forbidden to say, “Good morning” or “Good evening (M.B. 554:41, K.H.C. 90). Some say that only the word “Shalom” is forbidden, while phrases like “Good morning” are permissible (Leket Yosher). We already mentioned that when necessary – in order not to insult someone – a person may return a greeting; and since some hold that “Good morning” and “Good evening” are not included in the prohibition, it is preferable to use these phrases than to say, “Shalom.”[15]

One who meets a friend who just got married or had a child may wish him a “Mazal Tov,” for giving someone a blessing is not included in the prohibition of extending a greeting (Piskei Teshuvot 554:19). Similarly, hand shaking is not included in the prohibition (Har Tzvi, Y.D. 290).

Just as one may not offer greetings on Tish’a B’Av, one may not send gifts either (M.B. 554:41). Charity, however, is not considered a gift. Therefore, one is permitted, even obligated, to send food to the needy, so they can have something to eat after the fast (see K.H.C. 554:91).

[15]The Tosefta (Ta’anit 3:11) states, “One may not extend a greeting to Chaveirim (Torah Jews) on Tish’a B’Av, but [one may say it] in a soft voice to a simple person.” Some understand [this to mean] that the prohibition applies only to Torah scholars, who are called Chaveirim. This appears to be the Rambam’s viewpoint, as the Bach understands it. However, the Mordechai (Mo’ed Kattan 895) presents a different version of the Tosefta: “One may not extend a greeting to his friend (chaveiro).” The Shulchan Aruch (554:20) rules in accordance with this [version], [stating] that one may not extend greetings on Tish’a B’Av, and that one who is greeted by someone unfamiliar with the halachah should answer in a soft voice. Virtually all the Acharonim concur. Nonetheless, we learned that one should not bring the matter to a simpleton’s attention, for there are those who say that he is not obligated in this [halachah]. See R. Karp’s work, 7:72. Also see Torat HaMo’adim 8:22.

12 – Trips and Visiting the Western Wall (Kotel)

One must avoid taking trips on Tish’a B’Av, because they divert one’s attention from mourning. One should also avoid friendly conversations, because they can lead to laughter and lightheadedness (Sh.A. 554:21). It is a good practice to talk about the churban, Israel’s tribulations, and the ways of repentance for both the community and the individual.

Even those who are accustomed to visiting cemeteries after the recitation of Kinot must be careful not to go in large groups, because they might become distracted from mourning (Rama 559:10, M.B. 41).

It is obvious that one should not refrain from going to the Kotel out of concern that he might meet friends there and be happy. I heard from my father, my teacher, that there is no greater rectification for Tish’a B’Av than going to the Western Wall – the only remnant [of our Temple] left standing after the churban – and praying for the Beit HaMikdash to be rebuilt speedily in our days. On the contrary, the fact that many people assemble there increases the power of the prayers and magnifies God’s glory. My father added that just as one would not say that it is forbidden to build the Holy Temple during the Nine Days because it is an act of building that entails joy, so too one should not say that it is forbidden to visit the Kotel on Tish’a B’Av for fear that one might meet friends there. Rather, if one meets his friends there, he should avoid saying Shalom, but he may shake their hands lovingly and pray with them for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash.

13 – Sitting and Lying on the Ground

According to [the letter of] the law, there is no obligation to sleep or lie on the ground on Tish’a B’Av. For Chazal’s statement – “All mitzvot that apply to a mourner apply on Tish’a B’Av” (Ta’anit 30a) – refers only to those acts that are forbidden during the [seven-day] mourning period, like washing, anointing, wearing shoes, marital relations, greeting one another, and Torah study. However, the mitzvot that a mourner must keep, like turning over the beds and sitting on the floor, do not apply on Tish’a B’Av according to [the letter of] the law (Tur, O.C. 555). Nonetheless, the custom is to exhibit our mourning on Tish’a B’Av in the way we lie and sit, as well. But since this law is based on custom, it is more lenient [than the other prohibitions are], as we will explain presently.

Lying down: Some people sleep on the ground; others sleep without a pillow; and still others place a stone beneath their heads (Sh.A. 555:2). One who finds it difficult to sleep in this manner, may sleep normally (M.B. 555:6). The prevalent custom is to… place one’s mattress on the ground, thus precluding the need to remove one’s pillow. It is best to place a stone underneath the mattress. This way, one observes the custom of mourning without having much difficulty falling asleep.

Sitting: The custom is to sit on the ground like mourners. However, since there is no halachic obligation to do so, we are not strict about this all day long (Bach 559:1). Ashkenazim [sit on the ground] until midday, while Sefardim [do so] until the Minchah (Afternoon) service (Sh.A. and Rama 559:3). Thus, one who takes a nap in the afternoon need not place his mattress on the ground.[16]

We already learned (above, 9.3) that some have a custom, based on Kabbalah, not to sit on the ground without a piece of cloth or wood to separate [between the person and the floor] (Birkei Yosef 555:8). If the floor is tiled, however, many [poskim] maintain that there is no need [for a separation], even according to Kabbalah. Some are meticulous to make a separation even on tiled floors, but many people follow the lenient custom.

Since there is no halachic obligation to sit on the ground, one may sit on a small cushion or a low bench, but they should preferably be no higher than a tefach (handbreadth) off the ground. If it is difficult to sit so low, one may be lenient and sit on a chair that is less than three tefachim (24 cm) high. And if even this is difficult, one may sit on a chair that is slightly higher than three tefachim.[17]

Sitting on stairs is considered sitting on the ground, because people step on them (Mekor Chayim by the [author of] Chavot Ya’ir). Some [authorities] allow one to sit on an overturned stender (lectern), even if it is higher than three tefachim. Since it is not designated for sitting, one who sits on it is not considered as one who sits on a chair. Pregnant women, the elderly, the sick, and those who suffer from back aches – for whom sitting on a low chair is difficult – may sit on regular chairs (A.H.Sh., Y.D. 387:3).

[16]Some say that one may sit on a chair immediately following the recitation of Kinot. This is the opinion of Sefer HaBrit, and one can infer it from Tractate Sofrim 18:7, as well, as [the author of] Hilchot Chag BeChag (7:95) points out. Those who find it difficult to sit on the ground may rely on this. Sefardim, as well, may be lenient, when necessary, starting midday, or at least half an hour after midday, which is the [earliest] time [one can pray] Minchah.

[17]The Maharil sat directly on the ground, but since there is no obligation [to do so], the Magen Avraham (559:2) allows one to sit on a cushion. The [Chafetz Chayim], in Mishnah Berurah 11 and Sha’ar HaTziyun 9, permits one to sit on a low bench, when necessary. The Ben Ish Chai (Devarim 20) writes that it should be no higher than a tefach. Many are lenient up to three tefachim, which is considered still attached to the ground, and the Chazon Ish permits even more than three tefachim. See Piskei Teshuvot 559:4 and Hilchot Chag BeChag 7:65:92. Regarding the Kabbalistic custom [not to sit directly on the ground], see Kaf HaChayim 552:39, which says that there is no obligation to put a separation on tiled floors. However, it is best to act stringently, when possible. See Torat HaMo’adim 10:2 and Hilchot Chag BeChag 7:66.

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.

15 – The Reading of Eichah and Dimming the Lights

We read Eichah after praying Ma’ariv. Many Rishonim hold that a blessing is recited over the reading of Eichah, but many communities do not follow this practice. Moreover, many [poskim] maintain that even those who require a blessing agree that if Eichah is not written on parchment, like a Torah, no blessing is made. Nevertheless, few communities are careful to write the Scroll of Eichah on parchment. In practice, [all] Sefardim and many Ashkenazim, including all Chassidm, read Eichah without a blessing; while some Ashkenazim – especially those who follow the Vilna Gaon’s practices – read it from a kosher scroll written on parchment and recite a blessing.[19]

It is customary to darken the Synagogue on the night of Tish’a B’Av, as it says, He has settled me in darkness (Eichah 3:6). The Midrash (Eichah Rabbah 1:1) similarly states that the Holy One, blessed be He, said to the ministering angels at the time of the churban, “What does a human king do when he is mourning?” They replied, “He extinguishes the lamps.” [God] said to them, “I will do the same,” as it says, The sun and moon became blackened (Yo’el 2:10).

Already at the beginning of the night, we turn off some of the lights in the Synagogue, and it is fitting to do the same at home. The main thing to be meticulous about is to dim the lights in preparation for the reading of Eichah, because that is when they used to blow out all the candles, except for the few that were needed for the reading (Sh.A. 559:3). Now that we use electric lights, some have a custom to turn off all the lights before the reading and produce the necessary light with candles alone. Others keep a few electric lights on.

The [Rabbinic] institution to read Eichah in public primarily related to [reading it] at night, as it says (Eichah 1:2), She weeps sorely in the night (Sh.A. and Rama 559:1-2). However, many people have a custom to read it again during the day, after the recitation of Kinot. In a place where the congregation does not read it [publically] during the day, it is proper for each individual to read it by himself (M.B. 559:2).

[19]Tractate Sofrim (14:3) states clearly that a blessing is recited over the reading of Eichah. Or Zaru’a, Shibolei HaLeket, HaManhig, and others concur. The Beit Yosef (559:2) writes that people do not customarily recite a blessing. See also Rama, O.C. 490:8 with M.B.; Yabi’a Omer 1:29; Torat HaMo’adim 10:12; Hilchot Chag BeChag 9:4, 9:24. Regarding the custom to dim the lights, which is mentioned in the continuation [of the main text], see Torat HaMo’adim 10:4; Hilchot Chag BeChag 9:3.

16 – Anneinu, Nacheim, the Priestly Blessings, and Tachanun

The laws of reciting Anneinu [on Tish’a B’Av] are the same as those of the other fast days, as we explained above (7.10). As we learned [there], Sefardim are accustomed to saying it in all the silent prayers of the fast; therefore, on Tish’a B’Av, which begins at night, they say it in Ma’ariv, Shacharit, and Minchah. According to Ashkenazi practice, however, the only silent prayer in which it is said is Minchah.

[The Rabbis] instituted that Nacheim be added to the blessing of Boneih Yerushalayim whenever Anneinu is said. The conclusion of the blessing is changed, as well: Menachem Tziyon b’vinyan Yerushalayim (Sefardic version) or Menachem Tziyon u’voneih Yerushalayim (Ashkenazi and North African version). Indeed, the wording of Nacheim contains phrases that, seemingly, do not coincide with current-day Jerusalem, like: “[The city that is…] mournful without her children…desolate without inhabitants. She sits with her head covered, like a barren woman who has not given birth. Legions have devoured her and idolaters have taken possession of her.” However, we do not have the power to change the formulation that our Sages instituted. Besides which, we can – unfortunately – apply all this to the Temple Mount. Furthermore, compared to what Jerusalem should be – the capital of the world, the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the nations – it is considered destroyed and desolate.[20]

One does not say Tachanun on Tish’a B’Av or during the Minchah prayer on the eve of Tish’a B’Av, because Tish’a B’Av is called a mo’ed (an appointed time), as it says (Eichah 1:15), He has declared a set time against me (Sh.A. 559:4). (That is, a mo’ed is a special time; if we are worthy, it will be a holiday; if not, it will be a time of mourning.)

In some communities, the kohanim (priests) do not spread their hands [to recite the priestly blessings] during Shacharit [of Tish’a B’Av], as it says, When you spread your hands, I will hide My eyes from you (Yeshayah 1:15). This is similar to [the halachah] that a kohen who is in mourning does not “spread his hands,” because he is unhappy and [therefore] unable to bless [the congregants] with peace. Most Ashkenazim and some Sefardim follow this custom. The kohanim of other communities do “spread their hands” during Shacharit, and this is the custom of the Kabbalists in Jerusalem. Each community should continue following its own custom. According to all customs, [the kohanim] recite the priestly blessings when praying Minchah towards evening (see K.H.C. 559:30, Torat HaMo’adim 10:17, above 7.12).

We customarily pray [on Tish’a B’Av] like mourners do – patiently, in a soft voice, and without cantillation (Rama 559:1).

[20]One who forgets to say Nacheim [in its proper place] should say it in the blessing pertaining to the Temple service [Retzeih] (B.H. 557). If one forgets [to insert it there as well], he should say it in Elokai Netzor. And if one [remembers only after] completing the entire Shemoneh Esrei, he should not pray again in order to say Nacheim.

North African Jews say Nacheim only during Minchah, as Ashkenazim do (Tefillat HaChodesh).

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.

18 – Words of Torah in our Prayers and the Blessing of SheAsah Li Kol Tzorki

Most of the passages that we say in the framework of Korbanot (Sacrifices) are included [in our prayers] for two reasons: 1) [to serve] as a substitute for [actual] sacrifices and a preparation for prayer, 2) to give every Jew the opportunity to learn Torah every day – [by reciting] verses from Scriptures, Mishnayot, and Talmudic statements. Consequently, on Tish’a B’Av, when one is forbidden to study Torah, the question arises, is it permissible to recite these passages? Many [poskim] hold that the main purpose of any part of our liturgy is prayer-related and one is, therefore, allowed to recite it on Tish’a B’Av. The Sefardim, as well as some Ashkenazim, follow this viewpoint. Other [authorities] maintain that on Tish’a B’Av one is permitted to say only what he says on a regular basis in his prayers. He should not, however, say that which he does not usually say in the section of Korbanot.[22]

Some people are accustomed to saying several chapters of Tehillim every day, such that they complete the entire book once a month. Some [authorities] say that one may recite these daily chapters on Tish’a B’Av, after midday. Others maintain that it is better to push it off until after the fast (M.B. 554:7, K.H.C. 20).[23]

One of the blessings we say in the morning is SheAsah Li Kol Tzorki, in which we thank God for providing us with shoes to wear. Even though it is forbidden to wear leather shoes on Tish’a B’Av and Yom Kippur, Ashkenazim and some Sefardim say the blessing, because it is a general expression of thanksgiving for the normal way of the world, not for the shoes one wears on any particular day. Moreover, one is permitted to wear non-leather shoes on these days. Furthermore, we put on [regular] shoes after the fast is over, and some say that the blessings we say in the morning apply to the night, as well. According to the Ari, however, one should not recite this blessing on [these] fast days. Most Sefardim follow this viewpoint.[24]

On the night of Tish’a B’Av, one is permitted to say the entire order of Kri’at Shema Al HaMittah (the recitation of Shema before going to sleep), because the verses included therein are said for the purpose of prayer, not Torah study.

[22]. The Shulchan Aruch (554:3) states that one may say the entire order of daily prayer, even the Midrash of Rabbi Yishma’el. The Aruch HaShulchan (554:6) concurs. The Rama (559:4) writes that one should not say Pitum HaKetoret. See Hilchot Chag BeChag 7:44, where [the author] explains that [the Rama] is referring to the Pitum HaKetoret at the end of Shacharit, for not everyone is accustomed to saying it. The Mishnah Berurah (554:7), however, implies that [the Rama’s statement] refers to the Pitum HaKetoret said before the prayer service. Either way, it seems from the Mishnah Berurah that the rule is as follows: whatever people regularly say in their daily prayers may be said onTish’a B’Av as well. This is the second opinion I mentioned above. See Piskei Teshuvot 554:4, Torat HaMo’adim 8:19.

[23]. The Taz permits one to recite the daily portion of the parashahsh’nayim mikra ve’echad targum – [on Tish’a B’Av], and there are those who rely on his opinion, like Chabad Chassidim with regard to Chitat (Chumash, Tehillim, and Tanya). However, the overwhelming majority of Acharonim do not accept this viewpoint, as the Sha’ar HaTziyun (554:11) explains. Similarly, one should not read the daily portion of Chok LeYisrael or Ma’amadot, as the Birkei Yosef (554:5) and Mishnah Berurah (554:7) write. One whose loved one is ill may say Tehillim on his behalf, even before midday, because it [is being said] for a special reason (Divrei Malki’el 6:9; Torat HaMo’adim 8:19, end of note).

[24]. The Rosh, Ran, and Tur (O.C. 613) are of the opinion that one should recite SheAsah Li Kol Tzorki on Yom Kippur, and the Mishnah Berurah (554:31) agrees. According to the Rambam, however, one does not recite the blessing, because he holds that one does not recite a blessing [on something] unless he derives pleasure from it, as the Beit Yosef (O.C. 613) explains. The Vilna Gaon followed this custom, but he would say the blessing after the fast, upon putting on his [regular] shoes (Ma’aseh Rav 9). In general, the Ari’s custom was to recite blessings even [upon things] from which one derives no pleasure (see Peninei Halachah, Tefillah 9:3), but he said that one should not recite [certain] blessings on fast days, and that is what his followers do in practice, as quoted in Kaf HaChayim (46:17). The author of Rav Po’alim (2:8) writes that the blessing should not be recited even after the fast is completed. See Hilchot Chag BeChag 7:36. See Torat HaMo’adim (10:14) where the author mentions the accepted Sefardic ruling not to recite the blessing on fast days, but he adds that those who do say it have [authorities] upon whom to rely. At the end of the footnote, he writes that his father, the brilliant R. Ovadyah Yosef, is actually accustomed to saying the blessing.

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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20 – When Tish’a B’Av Falls Out on Shabbat and is Postponed

When Tish’a B’Av falls out on Shabbat, it is postponed until Sunday. On that Shabbat, we show no [outward] signs of mourning; rather, we eat and drink like we do on any other Shabbat, even feasting like King Shlomo did in his day (see above 9.4).[27]

As we learned above (10.4), pregnant and nursing women must fast on Tish’a B’Av. On a postponed fast, however, the law is more lenient, and if they feel slightly weak or if they experience some type of pain, they are exempt from fasting, even though they are not [actually] ill (B.H. 559:9, s.v. ve’eino; K.H.C. 75).

The main participants of a brit milah [the father, the mohel, and the sandak] must fast on Tish’a B’Av, but the law is more lenient when Tish’a B’Av falls out on Shabbat and the fast is postponed until Sunday. According to most poskim, these participants may pray Minchah after midday, perform the circumcision immediately afterwards, and then eat and drink. Some poskim rule strictly on the matter. In practice, the prevalent custom is to perform the brit towards the end of the day and eat the meal after the stars emerge.[28]

When Tish’a B’Av falls out on Shabbat and the fast is postponed until Sunday, the tenth of Av, the customs of mourning do not continue after the fast, and one is allowed to take a haircut, do laundry, and bathe in hot water once the stars emerge. However, many [authorities] maintain that one should refrain from eating meat and drinking wine that night. Since everyone fasted during the day, it is improper to immediately rejoice by consuming meat and wine (Rama 558:1, M.B. 4-5, Rav [Mordechai] Eliyahu’s Hilchot Chagim 29:9). Others permit the consumption of meat and wine immediately following the fast (R. Chayim Vital, Pri Chadash, Torat HaMo’adim 11:8).

[27]. The Shulchan Aruch (554:19) writes that when Tish’a B’Av coincides with Shabbat, one is permitted to do all [that is ordinarily forbidden to be done on Tish’a B’Av], even marital relations. The Rama, however, says that one should refrain from such relations, for [acts that constitute] private mourning remain forbidden [on that Shabbat], because [refraining from them] does not diminish the honor of the Sabbath. The Mishnah Berurah (40) writes – based on the Shelah and the Magen Avraham – that if a woman goes to the mikvah [that Friday night], thus making it a mitzvah to have marital relations, then even those who [usually] follow the Rama’s customs would rely on the Shulchan Aruch’s opinion.

[28]. The Shulchan Aruch (559:8) rules leniently and permits [the three main participants] to partake in a meal in honor of the brit on a postponed fast day. Other [poskim] forbid this; see K.H.C. 559:74 and M.A. 559:11. Most authorities, however, hold the more lenient opinion; so claim the Mishnah Berurah and [the author of] Torat HaMo’adim (2:5). In practice, though, many communities act strictly. The author of Knesset HaGedolah writes that the Jews of Turkey acted strictly; the author of Shulchan Gavo’ah writes that this was also the custom in Salonika; and Responsa Pe’ulat Tzaddik (3:147) cites this as being the custom in Yemen. The Aruch HaShulchan (559:9) writes, “We have never seen or heard of anyone” making a meal on a postponedTish’a B’Av, or even on one of the minor fasts [that was postponed]. See Piskei Teshuvot 559:9. (Regarding the previous halachah: the author of Yechaveh Da’at, 3:40, rules leniently… even if [the woman] feels no pain [at all].)

21 – Minors

As is true regarding all other mitzvot, we are commanded to educate our children to keep the mitzvot relating to Tish’a B’Av and mourning over the churban. Since children are weak, however, it is impossible to teach them to fast [when they are young]. Therefore, we train them to fast a few hours, depending on their strength, only starting from age nine. They should not fast the entire day (Rama of Panow 111; see K.H.C. 554:23). When feeding children [on Tish’a B’Av], one should give them only simple foods, in order to teach them to join with the community in mourning (M.B. 550:5). Many people are careful to teach their children who have reached the age of chinuch (education) – from around six years old – not to eat or drink on the night of the fast.

At the age of chinuch… when a child begins to understand the story of the destruction and the [concept of] mourning over it, we teach him or her not to wear leather sandals or shoes and not to apply ointments or bathe for the sake of pleasure. Some act strictly in this regard even from the age of two or three. Even though children of this age do not understand the concept of mourning, [these acts nonetheless symbolize] a sharing in [the Jewish people’s] anguish and demonstrate our grief over the churban, seeing that even small children participate, in some way, in our mourning.[29]

[As mentioned] above (10.10), one is forbidden to study Torah [on Tish’a B’Av], because it brings a person joy, and one may only learn sad topics related to the destruction of the Temple and the laws of mourning. The same applies to teaching children: adults may only teach them topics related to the churban and mourning. Some say that adults may not teach children even those topics and laws related to the churban, because adults feel joy when they teach children. [According to these authorities], the only thing one may do is tell them the story of the destruction (M.B. 554:2; see K.H.C. 8). Since these two opinions are equally [represented], every person may choose which one he wants to follow. Everyone agrees, however, that a minor may learn, on his own, whatever an adult may learn.[30]

[29]. Actually, with regard to Yom Kippur, the Shulchan Aruch (616:1) rules that children must observe only the prohibition against wearing shoes – because doing so does not cause that much pain – while washing and anointing are permitted. Nonetheless, the reason for this leniency is that people used to wash and anoint young children in order to foster growth. Today, however, when we do not follow such a practice, it seems that washing and anointing are forbidden just like wearing shoes is. Nit’ei Gavri’el 69:2, 73:3 advances this logic. The Chochmat Adam (152:17) writes that one need not train children [on Tish’a B’Av], even with relation to wearing shoes, because we educate children [to observe these laws] only on Yom Kippur, but onTish’a B’Av and in cases of personal mourning, there is no need to do so, if it entails even a small degree of pain. The Magen Avraham (551:38), however, asserts that we educate children [to keep the laws of] public mourning. The Mishnah Berurah (551:81) concurs, adding that there are two reasons why [adults] may not give haircuts [to children during the Nine Days]: 1) for educational purposes – accordingly, the prohibition starts at age six; and 2) to generate feelings of sorrow among the adults – in which case the prohibition starts even before then. The author of Piskei Teshuvot (554:15) concludes that, either way, everyone agrees that there is no need to be strict before the age of two or three.

[30]. The Bach, Taz, and others [assert] that children who understand what they learn may study sorrowful topics, and when [our Sages] say that it is forbidden to teach children, they mean [it is forbidden to teach them] their regular course of study. The Magen Avraham maintains that [an adult] should not teach them even sad topics, but one may tell them stories about the churban. See R. Karp’s [Hilchot Chag BeChag] 7:42 and Torat HaMo’adim 8:20.

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