Tisha B'Av

Tisha B'Av
Tisha B'Av
Tisha B'Av
Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, by Francesco Hayez
Official name Hebrew: תשעה באב
English: Ninth of Av
Observed by Jews in Judaism
Type Jewish
Significance Mourning the destruction of the First & Second Temples in Jerusalem, and more generally for all calamities which have befallen the Jewish people
Date 9th day of Av (if Shabbat, then the 10th of Av)
2010 date Sunset, July 19 – nightfall, July 20
2011 date Sunset, August 8 – nightfall, August 9
Observances Fasting, prayer
Related to The fasts of the Tenth of Tevet and the Seventeenth of Tammuz, the Three Weeks & the Nine Days

About this sound Tisha B'Av (Hebrew: תשעה באב‎ or ט׳ באב, "the Ninth of Av,") is an annual fast day in Judaism, named for the ninth day (Tisha) of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar. The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 655 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date.[1] Although primarily meant to commemorate the destruction of the Temples, it is also considered appropriate to commemorate other Jewish tragedies that occurred on this day, most notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.[2] Accordingly, the day has been called the "saddest day in Jewish history".[3]

Tisha B'Av falls in July or August in the western calendar. When the ninth of Av falls on Sabbath (Saturday), the observance is deferred to Sunday the tenth of Av. While the day recalls general tragedies which have befallen the Jewish people over the ages, the day focuses on commemoration of five events: the destruction of the two ancient Temples in Jerusalem, the sin of ten of the twelve scouts sent by Moses, who spoke disparagingly about the Promised Land, the razing of Jerusalem following the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire.

The fast lasts about 25 hours, beginning at sunset on the eve of Tisha B'Av and ending at nightfall the next day. In addition to the prohibitions against eating or drinking, observant Jews also observe prohibitions against washing or bathing, applying creams or oils, wearing leather shoes, and engaging in sexual activity. In addition, mourning customs similar to those applicable to the shiva period immediately following the death of a close relative are traditionally followed for at least part of the day, including sitting on low stools, refraining from work and not greeting others.

The Book of Lamentations is traditionally read, followed by the kinnot, a series of liturgical lamentations. In many Sephardic and Yemenite communities, and formerly also among Ashkenazim, it is also customary to read the Book of Job.



Destruction of the Temple

Excavated stones from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (Jerusalem), knocked onto the street below by Roman battering rams in 70 CE

The fast commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

In connection with the fall of Jerusalem, three other fast-days were established at the same time as the Ninth Day of Av: these were the Tenth of Tevet, when the siege began; the Seventeenth of Tammuz, when the first breach was made in the wall; and the Third of Tishrei, known as the Fast of Gedaliah, the day when Gedaliah was assassinated.

The three weeks leading up to Tisha B'Av are known as The Three Weeks, while the days leading up to Tisha B'Av are known as The Nine Days.

Five calamities

According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6), five specific events occurred on the ninth of Av that warrant fasting:

  1. The twelve spies sent by Moses to observe the land of Canaan returned from their mission. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, brought a positive report, while the others spoke disparagingly about the land. The majority report caused the Children of Israel to cry, panic and despair of ever entering the "Promised Land". For this, they were punished by God that their generation would not enter the land. Because of the Israelites' lack of faith, God decreed that for all generations this date would become one of crying and misfortune for their descendants. (See Numbers Ch. 13–14)
  2. The First Temple built by King Solomon and the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE (3175 AM) after the siege in 587 and the Judaeans were sent into the Babylonian exile.
  3. The Second Temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah was destroyed by the Romans in August of 70 CE (3830 AM), scattering the people of Judea and commencing the Jewish exile from the Holy Land. According to the Talmud in tractate Ta'anit, the destruction of the Second Temple began on the Ninth of Av and the Temple continued to burn throughout the Tenth of Av.
  4. The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba's revolt and destroyed the city of Betar, killing over 100,000 Jews, on July 8, 132 CE (Av 9, 3892 AM).[4]
  5. Following the Roman siege of Jerusalem, Roman commander Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Temple and the surrounding area, in 133 CE.[5]

Note: Due to a two-year difference within the Hebrew calendar, the years in which the First and Second Temple were destroyed have been disputed. Though it has been accepted by most historians to refer to the most modern interpretation of the Calendar (which corresponds to the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.)

Other calamities

Over time, Tisha B'Av has come to be a Jewish day of mourning, not only for these events, but also for later tragedies. Regardless of the exact dates of these events, for many Jews, Tisha B'Av is the designated day of mourning for them, and these themes are reflected in liturgy composed for this day (see below).

Other calamities associated with Tisha B'Av:

  • The First Crusade was declared by Pope Urban II on July 20, 1095 (Av 9, 4855 AM), killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland.[4]
  • Jews were expelled from England on July 25, 1290 (Av 9, 5050 AM).[4]
  • Jews were expelled from Spain on August 11, 1492 (Av 9, 5252 AM).[5]
  • On August 1, 1914 (Av 9, 5674 AM), World War I broke out, causing unprecedented devastation across Europe and set the stage for World War II and the Holocaust.[5]
  • On the eve of Tisha B'Av 5702 (July 23, 1942), the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.[6]
  • The Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 86 and wounding 300 others, on Monday July 18, 1994,[4] in Jewish Calendar, the 10th of Av, 5754. Jewish Cal 1994

Laws and customs

Main prohibitions

Tisha B'Av bears similar stringencies to those of Yom Kippur. In addition to the length of the fast which lasts about 25 hours, beginning at sunset on the eve of Tisha B'Av and ends at nightfall the following day, Tisha B'Av also shares the following five prohibitions:[7]

  1. No eating or drinking
  2. No washing or bathing
  3. No application of creams or oils
  4. No wearing of leather shoes
  5. No marital relations

These restrictions are waived in the case of health issues. For example, those who are seriously ill may eat and drink. According to the Orthodox-Mizrachi establishment, combat soldiers are absolved of fasting on Tisha B'Av on the basis that it can endanger their lives. The latest of such decrees were issued during the Second Lebanon War by leading Rabbinical authorities Israel's Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger in tandem with the IDF's chief rabbi, Brigadier General Yisrael Weiss.[8] On other fast days almost any medical condition may justify breaking the fast; in practice, since many cases differ, consultation with a rabbi is often necessary. Ritual washing up to the knuckles is permitted. Washing to cleanse dirt or mud from one's body is also permitted.

Additional customs

Torah study is forbidden on Tisha B'av (as it is considered a spiritually enjoyable activity), except for the study of distressing texts such as the Book of Lamentations, the Book of Job, portions of Jeremiah and chapters of the Talmud that discuss the laws of mourning.[9]

According to the Rema it is customary to sit on low stools or on the floor, as is done during shiva from the meal immediately before the fast (seudah hamafseket) until noon. The Beit Yosef rules that the custom extends until one prays Mincha (the afternoon prayer).

If possible, work is avoided during this period. Electric lighting may be turned off or dimmed, and kinot recited by candlelight. Some sleep on the floor or modify their normal sleeping routine, by sleeping without a pillow, for instance. People refrain from greeting each other or sending gifts on this day. Old prayerbooks and Torahs are often buried on this day.

End of fast

Although the fast ends at nightfall, according to tradition, the Temple continued burning throughout the night and for most of the following day, the tenth of Av.[10] It is therefore customary to refrain from eating meat, drinking wine, bathing, cutting hair, doing laundry, listening to music, making a shehechiyanu blessing until midday (chatzos) of the following day.[11]

When Tisha B'Av begins on Saturday night, the Havdalah ritual at the end of Shabbat is truncated (using a candle but no spices), without a blessing over wine. After Tisha B'Av ends on Sunday evening, another Havdalah ceremony is performed with wine (without candle or spices).[12]

The laws of Tisha B'Av are recorded in the Shulchan Aruch (Literally "The Set Table", a code of Jewish Law") Orach Chayim 552-557.


"Console, O Lord, the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and the city laid waste, despised and desolate. In mourning for she is childless, her dwellings laid waste, despised in the downfall of her glory and desolate through the loss of her inhabitants…. Legions have devoured her, worshippers of strange gods have possessed her. They have put the people of Israel to the sword… Therefore let Zion weep bitterly and Jerusalem give forth her voice… For You, O Lord, did consume her with fire and with fire will You in future restore her… Blessed are You, O Lord, Who consoles Zion and builds Jerusalem."

Abbreviated from the Nachem prayer.

The scroll of Eicha (Lamentations) is read in synagogue during the evening services. In addition, most of the morning is spent chanting or reading Kinnot, most bewailing the loss of the Temples and the subsequent persecutions, but many others referring to post-exile disasters. These later kinnot were composed by various poets (often prominent rabbis) who had either suffered in the events mentioned or relate received reports. Important kinnot were composed by Elazar ha-Kalir and Rabbi Judah ha-Levi. After the Holocaust, kinnot were composed by the German-born Rabbi Shimon Schwab (in 1959, at the request of Rabbi Joseph Breuer) and by Rabbi Solomon Halberstam, leader of the Bobov Hasidim (in 1984). Since Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza, some right wing segments of the Religious Zionist community have begun to recite kinnot to commemorate the expulsion of Jewish settlers from Gush Katif and northern West Bank on the day after Tisha B'Av, in 2005.[13]

In many Sephardic congregations the Book of Job is read on the morning of Tisha B'Av.

At the Mincha service, Ashkenazim add a paragraph that begins Nachem ("Console...") to the conclusion of the blessing Boneh Yerushalayim ("Who builds Jerusalem") recited during the Amidah. The prayer elaborates the mournful state of the Temple in Jerusalem. The concluding signature of the blessing is also extended to say "Blessed are You, O Lord, Who consoles Zion and builds Jerusalem."

History of the observance

In the long period which is reflected in Talmudic literature the observance of the Ninth Day of Av assumed a character of constantly growing sadness and asceticism. By the end of the second century or at the beginning of the third, the celebration of the day had lost much of its gloom. Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi was in favor of abolishing it altogether or, according to another version, of lessening its severity when the fast has been postponed from Saturday to Sunday (Talmud, Tractate Megillah 5b).

The growing strictness in the observance of mourning customs in connection with the Ninth Day of Av became pronounced in post-Talmudic times, and particularly in the darkest period of Jewish history, from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth.

Maimonides (twelfth century), in his Mishneh Torah, says that the restrictions as to the eating of meat and the drinking of wine refer only to the last meal before fasting on the Eighth Day of Av, if taken after noon, but before noon anything may be eaten (Hilchoth Ta'anith 5:8). Rabbi Moses of Coucy (thirteenth century) wrote that it is the universal custom to refrain from meat and wine during the whole day preceding the Ninth of Av (Sefer Mitzvoth ha-Gadol, Venice ed., Laws of Tishah B'Av, 249b). Rabbi Joseph Caro (sixteenth century) says some are accustomed to abstain from meat and wine from the beginning of the week in which the Ninth Day of Av falls; and still others abstain throughout the three weeks from the Seventeenth of Tammuz (Shulkhan Arukh, Orach Chayim 551).

A gradual extension of prohibitions can be traced in the abstention from marrying at this season and in other signs of mourning. So Rabbi Moses of Coucy says that some do not use the tefillin ("phylacteries") on the Ninth Day of Av, a custom which later was universally observed (it is now postponed until the afternoon). In this manner all customs originally designated as marks of unusual piety finally became the rule for all.

In Israel

In Israel, restaurants and places of entertainment are closed on the eve of Tisha B'Av and the following day by law. Establishments that break the law are subject to fines. Outside of Israel, the day is not observed by most secular Jews, as opposed to Yom Kippur, on which many secular Jews fast and go to synagogue.

When Menachem Begin became Prime Minister, he wanted to unite all the memorial days and days of mourning on Tisha B'Av, so that Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day would also fall on this day.[14]

Contemporary opinions

Although agreeing that the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem had threatened the very survival of the Jewish people, Ismar Schorsch, former chancellor of the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary of America, downplayed its significance as having no appeal to the modern Jew who "no longer prays for the restoration of the sacrificial cult in Jerusalem." He viewed the day as having meaning since it had absorbed the “memory of other national disasters."[15][16] In Reform Judaism too, mourning the destruction of the Temple in such an elaborate fashion is not regarded as meaningful as Reform has never assigned a central religious role to the ancient Temple.[17]

Berl Katznelson, a leader of the Labor Zionist movement, criticized his party's youth movement for holding campfires on Tisha B'Av in 1936. He believed that even secular Jews could find some meaning in traditional observances.[18]

A 2010 poll in Israel revealed the some 22% of Israelis fast on Tisha B'Av; another 52% honor the day by avoiding entertainment and not going out with friends.[19]

In light of renewed Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel

As the main focus of the day recalls the destruction of the First and Second Temples and the subsequent scattering the Jewish nation into exile, the modern day re-establishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land has raised various attitudes within Judaism as to whether Tisha B'Av still has significance or not.

Some in the Conservative movement view the establishment of the State of Israel and the restoration of Jewish sovereign independence as “a great salvation” and conclude that it would be correct to commemorate this historic fact by concluding the fast after the midday service; others opine that the fast should be completed and cite the fact that even during the Second Temple period the fast was observed.[20]

Following the Six Day War, the national religious community viewed Israel’s territorial gains with almost messianic overtones. The liberation of geographical areas with immense religious significance, including Jerusalem, the Western Wall and Temple Mount was seen as portentious; however only the full rebuilding of the Temple will engender enough reason to cease observing the day as one of mourning.[21] Some have always believed that until the arrival of the Messianic Era, Tisha B'Av will continue to be observed as a fast day.

Other traditions

Classical Jewish sources[22] maintain that the Jewish Messiah will be born on Tisha B'Av, though many explain this idea metaphorically, as the hope for the Jewish Messiah was born on Tisha B'Av with the destruction of the Temple.[23]

See also


  1. ^ The First Temple's destruction began on the 7th of Av (2 Kings 25:8) and continued until the 10th (Jeremiah 52:12). The fire was lit on the afternoon of the 9th (Ta'anit 29a)
  2. ^ http://www.jewfaq.org/holidayd.htm
  3. ^ Telushkin, Joseph (1991). Jewish Literacy: Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People and Its History. William Morrow & Co. pp. 656. ISBN 0-688-08506-7. 
  4. ^ a b c d Becher, Rabbi Mordechai (1995). "History of Events on Tisha B'Av". ohrnet. http://ohr.edu/1088. Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  5. ^ a b c Barclay, Rabbi Elozor; Jaeger, Rabbi Yitzchok (2003). Guidelines: Over Four Hundred of the Most Commonly Asked Questions About the Three Weeks. Targum Press. ISBN 1-56871-254-5. 
  6. ^ "Tisha B'Av Calamities - 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av - Ninth of Av - Jewish Days of Mourning - Fast Day". http://judaism.about.com/od/daysofmourning/a/tav_events.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  7. ^ Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Hebrew)
  8. ^ Yedioth Soldiers Exempted From Tisha B'Av Fast]
  9. ^ Donin, Hayim Halevy (1991). To Be a Jew. Basic Books. pp. 264. ISBN 0-465-08632-2. 
  10. ^ Donin, Hayim Halevy (1991). To Be a Jew. Basic Books. pp. 265. ISBN 0-465-08632-2. 
  11. ^ Shulchan Aruch w/Mishnah Brurah 558:1
  12. ^ Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 125:6
  13. ^ Machon Shilo Tisha B'Av: Special Gush Katif Kinna
  14. ^ Dreaming of the Third Temple in a conflicted Land of Israel, Haaretz, July 20, 2010.
  15. ^ JTSA.edu[dead link]
  16. ^ Schorsch, Ismar. "Tisha b'Av (I)". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2007-08-05. http://web.archive.org/web/20070805065051/http://www.learn.jtsa.edu/topics/luminaries/monograph/schorsch_tishab1.shtml. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  17. ^ "Tishah B'Av - URJ". urj.org. http://urj.org/holidays/tishabav/. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  18. ^ Snitkof, Rabbi Ed. "Secular Zionism - My Jewish Learning". www.myjewishlearning.com. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/israel/Jewish_Thought/Modern/Secular_Zionism.shtml. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  19. ^ Brackman, Rabi Levi and Rivkah Lubitch. "Poll: 74% follow Tisha B'Av tradition". Israel Jewish Scene, Ynetnews. www.ynet.co.il. http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3921895,00.html. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  20. ^ Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement 1927-1970 - Volume III Ed. David Golinkin, The Rabbinical Assembly, Jerusalem, 1997. Responsa relating to this topic in this volume include Marriage during the Sefirah 1949; Restraint on Marriages During the Omer Days 1952; A Dvar Torah Suggested by Lab Baomer 1962; Weddings During the Three Weeks 1964; Weddings During the Three Weeks 1968.
  21. ^ Ben Meir, Yehuda. "The Disengagement: An Ideological Crisis". Strategic Assessment, March 2005, Vol. 7, No. 4. The Institute for National Security Studies. http://www.inss.org.il/publications.php?cat=21&incat=&read=72. Retrieved 2010-07-20. 
  22. ^ Jerusalem Talmud, Berachos 2:4;
  23. ^ Silberberg, Naftali. "Is it true that the Messiah will be born (or was born) on Tisha b'Av?". AskMoses.com. http://www.askmoses.com/article.html?h=110&o=43879. Retrieved 2007-07-22. 

External links

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