The Laws of Tisha B'Av (9 Av)
Overview of the Laws of Tisha B'Av
(According to the Ashkenazic practice)
1. The period of the Three Weeks commences with the evening of 17 Tammuz and continues through midday after Tisha B’Av (S.H. 2, 31).
2. During the Three Weeks, one is not permitted to (a) take a haircut or shave (Rama, O.C. 551:4), (b) get married or participate in a wedding (Rama, O.C. 551:2), (c) listen to music (M.B. 551:16), or (d) recite the Shehechiyanu blessing (Rama, O.C. 551:17).
3. One is permitted to sing, dance and recite Shehechiyanu on Shabbat (M.B. 551:98).
4. The Nine Days commence with the evening of Rosh Chodesh Av and continue until midday of the tenth of Av (M.B. 551:58).
5. In addition to the restrictions of the Three Weeks, during the Nine Days one is not permitted to (a) eat meat (including fowl) (S.A., O.C. 551:9–10; M.B. 551:58), (b) drink wine (ibid.), (c) expand one’s business (S.A., O.C. 551:2), (d) build items that bring pleasure or make preparations for joyous events (ibid.), (e) wash or iron clothes, or (f) wear new or newly washed clothes (Rama, O.C. 551:3).
6. If a seudat mitzva, meal in connection with a mitzva, takes place during the Nine Days, such as a siyum or brit milah, one may eat meat at that meal (Rama, O.C. 551:10).
7. One may eat meat and drink wine on Shabbat, but for havdala, one should give the wine to a child to drink. If one cannot do that, one may use wine (Rama, O.C. 551:10).
8. Grape juice is included in the prohibition of wine and therefore one may not drink it (E.Y. vol. 9, p. 110).
9. The general custom is to forbid bathing for pleasure during the Nine Days (S.A., O.C. 551:16).
10. There is a custom to postpone lawsuits against non-Jews until after the month of Av has ended, or at least until after Tisha B’Av (S.A., O.C. 551:1; M.B. 551:2).
RESTRICTIONS OF TISHA B’AV
On Tisha B’Av one is not permitted to (1) eat or drink, (2) wash one’s body, (3) anoint oneself, (4) wear leather shoes, or (5) engage in marital relations (S.A., O.C. 554:1).
Eating and Drinking
11. One is not permitted to put any food or drink in one’s mouth, even if one spits it out without swallowing (S.A., O.C. 567:1).
12. Someone who is ill and needs to eat, and a woman up to thirty days after childbirth, may eat on Tisha B’Av (S.A., O.C. 554:6). If Tisha B’Av falls on a Sunday, these individuals should recite havdala before eating (S.Te. 556:1).
13. If one eats bread on Tisha B’Av, when one recites Birkat HaMazon one should begin the third blessing with the word “Nachem” instead of the usual “Rachem” (Rama, O.C. 557:1; N.H. p. 198).
14. One is not allowed to wash one’s hands or even dip one’s finger in water (S.A., O.C. 554:7). However, one may rinse dirt off with water (S.A., O.C. 554:9).
15. When one awakens in the morning, one should wash one’s hands only up to the knuckles (S.A., O.C. 554:10). The same should be done after one uses the facilities, although if necessary one may wash any dirty area of one’s hands even beyond the knuckles (A.H., O.C. 554:10). If one is allowed to eat and needs to wash his hands for bread, he washes all the way to the wrist (S.S.K. ch. 39, n.101).
16. One may prepare food for children or for after the fast, even if the consequence is that one’s hands get wet (M.B. 554:19).
17. One is allowed to anoint oneself for any purpose that is not pleasurable (S.A., O.C. 554:15). This includes medical ointments and deodorant (B.H. 554:15).
18. One may wear any shoe that is not made of leather (S.A., O.C. 554:16).
19. If one has no other options, one may wear leather shoes but must take them off as soon as possible (S.A., O.C. 554:17).
20. One may not study Torah on Tisha B’Av except for melancholy passages in Torah texts, the laws of mourning and Tisha B’Av, and works of musar (S.A., O.C. 554:1; Y.O. 2:26).
21. One is not required to omit any Torah passage that is part of the regular daily prayer service (S.A., O.C. 554:4).
22. One may not greet another person with a verbal greeting such as “Hello” or “Good morning.” If someone greets you, you may respond in a serious tone (S.A., O.C. 554:20).
23. One may not sit on a chair until after halachic midday. Until then, one should sit on the floor or a low chair (S.A., O.C. 559:3; N.H. p. 253).
24. One should not work before midday unless refraining from work will result in a significant and irretrievable loss (S.A., O.C. 554:22–24).
EREV TISHA B’AV
25. Some have the custom not to learn Torah on the afternoon before Tisha B’Av other than such passages that are permitted on Tisha B’Av, but many authorities are lenient because of the importance of Torah study (A.H., O.C. 553:4). However, all agree that one should not take a pleasure trip or even an enjoyable stroll on the afternoon before Tisha B’Av (Rama, O.C. 553:2).
26. The custom is to eat a large meal before Mincha that will sustain one through the fast (Rama, O.C. 552:9). This is in addition to the later Seuda HaMafseket.
27. Tachanun (on Shabbat, “Tzidkatecha”) is omitted from Mincha (S.A., O.C. 552:12, 559:1).
28. After Mincha, one eats the Seuda HaMafseket, the final meal before the fast. At this meal, one may not eat more than one cooked item (S.A., O.C. 552:1). One should drink less than usual at this meal (Rama, O.C. 552:1). The custom is to sit on the floor and eat bread and a hard-boiled egg with ashes (Rama, O.C. 552:5–7).
29. Three adult males should not eat together to avoid having to say Birkat HaMazon with a zimmun (S.A., O.C. 552:8).
30. On Shabbat, one eats as usual and does not have to observe any of the restrictions of a Seuda HaMafseket (S.A., O.C. 552:10). However, one must cease eating [and washing] by sundown (Rama, O.C. 552:10).
31. The fast begins at sundown and all restrictions begin at that time (S.A., O.C. 553:2). [Editor’s note: If Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, then one should remove one’s Shabbat clothing and shoes 30 minutes after sunset, after reciting “Baruch Hamavdil Bein kodesh l’chol.” Shabbat is still not over until the time indicated on the calendar.]
32. If Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, the fast is held on Sunday (S.A., O.C. 550:3). Shabbat is observed as usual except that marital relations are forbidden (Rama, O.C. 554:19).
33. For Maariv, we remove the curtain from the Ark and dim the lighting. After Barchu, one sits on the floor or a low seat (Rama, O.C., 559:1–3).
34. If Tisha B’Av begins on Motzaei Shabbat, one may not make any preparations for Tisha B’Av, including bringing kinot or alternate shoes to shul, until after Shabbat is over. Many people bring them on Friday, before Shabbat begins. One removes weekday shoes after saying Barchu at Maariv but one should be careful not to dirty one’s hands before prayer (Rama, O.C. 553:2; M.B. 553:6). Alternatively, one may take off one’s shoes after saying “Baruch HaMavdil” as a form of havdala, after nightfall but before Maariv (S.S.K. ch. 28, n. 179).
35. Maariv proceeds as usual until after the Kaddish following the Amida. On Motzaei Shabbat, one recites Ata CHonantanu in Maariv and then one recites Kaddish immediately after the Amida.
36. On Motzaei Shabbat, after Kaddish one lights a havdala candle and recites the “Boreh Me’orei HaEish” blessing. The rest of havdala is delayed until after Tisha B’Av (S.A., O.C. 556:1; M.B. 556:1). [Besamim are not used on Sunday night.]
37. After Kaddish (or havdala), the shaliach tzibbur reads Eicha followed by kinot (Rama, O.C. 559:2).
38. Following kinot, even on Motzaei Shabbat, the congregation says VeAta Kadosh (omitting the verse “VaAni Zot Beriti ” – M.B. 559:6), followed by Kaddish without Titkabal (Rama, O.C. 559:4), and Aleinu.
39. Men do not wear tallit and tefillin in the morning, although they put on a tallit katan (tzitzit) without a blessing when they get dressed in the morning (S.A., O.C. 555:1).
40. Shacharit proceeds as usual, but without sitting in regular chairs. In the repetition of the Amida, the Shaliach Tzibbur adds Aneinu (M.B. 557:13) and omits Birkat Kohanim (K.S.A. 124:3). One does not say Tachanun (S.A., O.C. 131:7).
41. The appropriate Torah portion for Tisha B’Av is read, followed by Kaddish and Haftara, and the Torah is returned to the Ark.
42. The congregation then recites kinot. During the recitation of kinot, one may not conduct idle conversations that distract one from the mourning (S.A., O.C. 559:5).
43. After kinot, the congregation recites Ashrei and continues to Aleinu, omitting LaMenatzeiach and the verse “VaAni Zot Beriti ” from Uva LeTziyon. Kaddish is recited without Titkabal (Rama, O.C. 559:4). The psalm of the day is omitted (K.S.A. 124:3).
44. The curtain is returned to the Ark before Mincha (K.H. 559:19).
45. Before Mincha, men put on tallit and tefillin with blessings and wear them until after Mincha (S.A., O.C. 555:1).
46. The psalm of the day, which was omitted at the end of Shacharit, is now recited, followed by Ashrei and Kaddish (K.S.A. 124:19). Then the Torah scroll is removed from the Ark, the customary portion for the fast days (Vayechal) is read, and the Haftara is recited (M.B. 566:3). After the Torah is returned to the Ark, the shaliach tzibbur recites Kaddish, which is followed by the silent Amida.
THE END OF TISHA B’AV
47. During the silent Amida, one adds Nachem in the “Boneh Yerushalayim” blessing and Aneinu in the “Shomeia Tefilla” blessing (S.A., O.C. 557:1). If one is not fasting, then one says Nachem but not Aneinu (B.H. 565:1). One says Sim Shalom instead of the usual Shalom Rav (Rama, O.C. 127:2).
48. If one forgets to say Nachem, one may insert it into the “HaMachazir Shechinato” blessing before the word “Vetechezena.” In such a case, one concludes the blessing with “HaMachazir” and not “Menachem Tziyon” (M.B. 557:2). If one already finished that blessing, one does not insert Nachem at all and just continues praying. If one forgets to say Aneinu, one may insert it at the end of the Amida, before Elokai Netzor (M.B. 119:19).
49. In the repetition of the Amida, the shaliach tzibbur says Aneinu after the “Goeil Yisrael ” blessing, and Nachem in the “Boneh Yerushalayim” blessing. He also says Birkat Kohanim and Sim Shalom.
50. In the event the shaliach tzibbur forgets to say Aneinu in the repetition of the Amida, if he has not yet finished the next blessing (Refaeinu) then he should say Aneinu and then begin Refaeinu again. If he has finished that blessing, then he should insert Aneinu into the “Shomeia Tefilla” blessing (Rama, O.C. 119:4).
51. A regular Maariv service is prayed.
52. On Sunday night, one says havdala over a cup of wine but without the introductory verses and without a flame or spices (S.A., O.C. 556:1).
53. One should eat and put on one’s shoes before reciting Kiddush Levana (M.B. 426:11). However, if that is not possible, one may recite Kiddush Levana even before eating and putting on shoes (S.T. 426:9).
54. The restrictions of the Nine Days are still in effect until midday on the tenth of Av, the day after Tisha B’Av. Therefore, one may not eat meat, drink wine, wash clothes, bathe in a pleasing way, take a haircut or shave, until midday after Tisha B’Av (S.A., O.C. 558:1; N.H. 31). However, if Tisha B’Av falls on Thursday, one may wash clothes, bathe, take a haircut and shave in order to prepare for Shabbat (M.B. 558:3). If Tisha B’Av is deferred from Shabbat to Sunday, one need not observe all these restrictions after the fast ends, with the exception of eating meat and drinking wine which are still prohibited the night following the fast but are permitted in the morning (Rama, O.C. 558:1).
A.H. = Aruch HaShulchan
B.H. = Biur Halacha
E.Y. = Even Yisrael (Fischer)
K.H. = Kaf HaChayim
K.S.A. = Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
M.B. = Mishnah Brurah
M.H. = Mipi HaShemua
N.H. = Nefesh HaRav
O.C. = Orach Chaim
S.A. = Shulchan Aruch
S.H. = Shiurei HaRav, Inyanei Tisha B’Av
S.S.K. = Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata
S.T. = Shaar HaTziyun
S.Te. = Shaarei Teshuva
Y.O. = Yabia Omer
Torah Study on Tisha B'Av
On Tisha B’Av, unlike any other occasion except for shiva, the seven-day period of mourning for a loved one, there exists a prohibition to study the Torah. This is because the study of Torah is considered a delight and a source of joy, as King David says in Tehillim, “The Laws of Hashem are fair and make the heart happy” (Tehillim 19:9). On this day, happiness is specifically not a desired goal.
However, certain portions of the Torah are permitted to be studied even on Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish year. These include the Book of Job, which is a dramatic probe into the question of seemingly undeserved suffering, Megillat Eichah - the Book of Lamentations by the prophet Jeremiah over the fate of Jerusalem - the laws of mourning, and certain portions of the Talmud.
The permitted portions of Talmud study are “Aggadic” in nature; that is to say, non-legal. Rather, they are historical or poetic with a moral lesson. In particular, those portions of Aggadah that are permitted to be studied are those dealing with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the destruction of the city of Beitar at the end of the Bar Kochba revolt with its literal river of Jewish blood, and of certain similarly tragic episodes in Jewish history. Presumably, books about the Holocaust would also be acceptable reading matter on Tisha B’Av.
The major location in which these Aggadic portions are found is in tractate Gittin on pages 55b-58a. This is most appropriate, since tractate Gittin deals primarily with divorce and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple represented a “divorce,” separating God and the Jewish people.
We have good reason to believe that this “divorce” is only temporary because all the prophets foretold the ultimate redemption of Israel and its glorious future in the time of the Mashiach. We have begun to see the beginning, God willing, of the messianic process, with the establishment and growth of the State of Israel.