Halacha Guide: Tisha B’Av

Photo: Shneur Mor Yosef

Rabbi Shmuel Lesches, Rov of Young Yeshivah Shul in Melbourne, Australia, has compiled a guide with halachos and customs for Tisha B’av.

Click here to view and download in PDF format.

œ Tragedies

Five tragedies occurred on this day:

œ Erev Tishah B’Av

A Bris or Pidyon Haben (including the Seudah) should be conducted before midday.

One shouldn’t engage in enjoyable activity.

Starting from midday, one learns only those parts of Torah which may be learned on Tishah B’Av (see section “Learning on Tishah B’Av”). Chitas and Rambam should be completed before midday. [If one is running late, Chitas may be finished any time before sunset, whereas Rambam should be postponed until after Tishah B’Av.]

A Siyum is made as per the rest of the Nine Days. If after midday, it should be performed on a topic which may be learned on Tishah B’Av (such as the conclusion of Moied Kotton).

One should eat and drink sufficiently well in preparation for the fast, but not in a festive manner, nor in excessive amounts. This meal (along with Bentching) should occur before Mincha.

œ Mincha / Seudah Hamafsekes

Mincha is davened earlier, to leave sufficient time for the Seudah Hamafsekes. [A Chiyuv recites the usual Mishnayos prior to the last Kaddish.]

Tachanun is omitted from this point onward until after Tishah B’Av.

The Seudah Hamafsekes consists of bread and cold hard-boiled eggs dipped in ashes. One may drink water, tea, coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages, but should drink less than he usually would.

The Seudah Hamafeskes is eaten when sitting on a low chair. One may still wear leather shoes.

Shir Hamaalos is recited before Bentching, but a Mezuman is not made. Ideally, three adult men should avoid eating this meal together in the first place.

Before bentching, one should verbally stipulate that he might still eat or drink again before the fast begins. [If one neglected to do so, it is still permissible to eat and drink.]

After bentching, one may resume sitting on a regular chair until Tishah B’Av begins.

After Plag Hamincha, if one accepted to begin the fast – whether verbally or in his mind, one may no longer eat, and all the prohibitions of Tishah B’Av are applicable – the exception being that leather shoes may still be worn.

œ Tishah B’Av Evening

The Paroches is removed from the Aron HaKodesh (or moved to the side).

The lights in Shule are dimmed to a bare minimum. Nonetheless, the Chazzan lights the usual amount of candles; five for a Chiyuv, and two for a non-Chiyuv.

After Shmoneh Esrei, the Chazzan recites Kaddish Tiskabel.

Eicha is recited along with the Chazzan. One should not recite it standing, but rather should sit on a low chair. The Chazzan recites it unhurriedly, pausing between each Posuk, and raising his voice slightly at the beginning of each Perek.

The last Possuk (i.e. the second “Hashivenu”) is recited aloud with the Chazzan, followed by a few short Kinos.

One who davens without a Minyan still recites Eicha and Kinos.

V’Atah Kadosh is recited, followed by the full Kaddish – excluding the line beginning Tiskabel – and Aleinu.

A Chiyuv recites the third Perek of Mishnayos Moied Kotton prior to the last Kaddish.

It is not our custom to sleep on the floor or to place a stone under the pillow.

œ Learning on Tishah B’Av

On Tishah B’Av, one may learn only those parts of Torah which discuss the laws of mourning, the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, or the tragedies which befell the Jewish people throughout history. One should learn these in a cursory manner, and not delve into it (Drush v’Pilpul). Similarly, one should not consult a Rav regarding Halachic matters irrelevant to Tishah B’Av.

The Rebbe Rashab would learn the Sugya of the Churban in Masechta Gittin (55b-58a), as well as Midrash Eicha Rabba. [Some other appropriate things to learn: The books of Eicha and Iyov, the dire prophecies of Yirmiyahu, the third Perek of Moied Kotton, the end of Masechta Taanis in Yerushalmi, and a review of the Halachos of the day. The Rebbe once suggested that the Tzemach Tzedek’s Reshimos on Eicha be learned.]

As during the rest of the Nine Days, one should endeavour to hear a Siyum. This should be done on a topic which may be learned on Tishah B’Av (such as the conclusion of Moied Kotton.)

Needless to say, the obligation to learn Torah at every opportunity applies fully on Tishah B’Av. [Many Achronim bemoaned the lax attitude some people sadly adopt towards learning on Tishah B’Av.]

One should give increased Tzedakah, especially before Mincha. It is proper to give the value of the forgone meals – especially if one is exempt from fasting.

œ Laws of Tishah B’Av

On Tishah B’Av, it is prohibited to:

  • Wear festive clothing or festive jewellery.
  • Wear footwear containing any leather. One may wear non-leather footwear, including crocs. [If absolutely necessary for work purposes, a Rav should be consulted.]
  • Go to Mikvah, bathe or wash any part of the body – even in cold water. Similarly, one may not wipe himself with a cloth sufficiently damp to moisten what it touches. [One may rinse if necessary for medical or therapeutic purposes, or for pain-relief. One may also rinse any soiled areas, but only as necessary. Similarly, one may wash his hands up to the knuckles after exiting the restroom or touching an area of the body that is normally covered. One may also rinse one’s hands as usual before and during food preparation. All the above may be done with soap when applicable. One may also wash dishes, but it is best to do so whilst wearing gloves.]
  • Apply makeup, ointment, lotions, perfumes or creams – unless necessary for medical or therapeutic purposes, or for pain-relief.
  • Brush one’s teeth or rinse one’s mouth.
  • Sit on a normal-height chair until Tishah B’Av midday – unless one is frail or infirm, pregnant, while nursing, or when sitting in a vehicle.
  • Intimacy – Harchakos must be kept even during the day.
  • Greet another. If one was greeted, he may return the greeting in a subdued manner, or explain that it is Tishah B’Av.
  • Give gifts (unless it is Tzedakah).
  • Study, go to work, engage in business activity, or perform a job or task that requires concentration, as these will distract him from mourning. [Technically, these are permitted after midday, but it is best to refrain even then.] Nevertheless, one may do these in order to prevent a financial loss or to retain his job. Even then, one should defer any publicly performed work until after midday, if this is possible.
  • Instruct a non-Jew to work publicly on his behalf (such as construction). However, one may instruct a non-Jew to do any other work, even if it will be performed in one’s own home.

One should not idle away one’s time, go on trips or trips, read novels or articles, or partake in any other pleasurable pastimes or activities.

One should not smoke at all. At the very least, one should do so in private only, and keep it to a minimum. [Of course, smoking is discouraged in general.]

One should be especially careful not to become angered.

œ Who Must Fast?

The ill/elderly, a woman who gave birth within the past month, or a pregnant or nursing woman who feels (or anticipates) excessive difficulty, should consult a Rav.

A Rav should be consulted regarding medicines.

If one inadvertently ate during the fast, one must immediately resume fasting.

One may not taste food to determine whether it requires salt/spices, even for a Seudas Mitzvah.

Anyone below Bar/Bas Mitzvah need not fast. From the age of nine upwards, the custom is to train children to fast at night, and for several hours during the day, as per the child’s abilities.

An individual exempt from fasting should eat in private only, and avoid delicacies or excessive intake. Similarly, children old enough to understand the concept of a fast day should avoid delicacies. [Bread is best avoided, so as to sidestep a number of disputes regarding how to wash and Bentch.]

œ Tishah B’Av Morning

Neggel Vasser is washed only up to the knuckles. [Tip: Prepare the Neggel Vasser in a slightly different way as a reminder not to wash one’s hands as usual.]

One wipes his eyes with the towel moistened by the hands. Someone who washes the flakes out of his eyes every morning may do so on Tishah B’Av as well.

After getting dressed, Neggel Vasser is performed again – with a Brocho – only up to the knuckles.

The Brocho of Sheoso Li Kol Tzorki is omitted until the following morning.

Tallis and Tefillin are not worn until after midday. Similarly, a Brocho is not recited on the Tallis Kotton, nor are they held and kissed during Boruch Sheomar and Shma.

The Chazzan lights candles as usual; five for a Chiyuv, and two for a non-Chiyuv.

During Shacharis, only the Chazzan recites Aneinu. A non-fasting individual shouldn’t serve as Chazan.  [See 17 Tammuz Guide regarding a Chazzan who forgot to recite Aneinu, or who is not fasting.]

The Chazzan does not recite Birchas Kohanim.

Tachnun, Selichos and Avinu Malkeinu are not recited.

One who is not fasting (or who anticipates that he won’t be able to finish the fast) must still hear Krias Hatorah, but is not called up for an Aliya. [If he is the only Kohen or Levi, he should absent himself.] If he is called up, he may accept the Aliya. He should not serve as the Chazzan or the Ba’al Koreh either, unless there is no one else to do so.

Kaddish is recited between the last Aliyah and Haftorah. During Gelilah and Haftorah, the Magbiha holds the Sefer Torah while sitting on a regular-height chair. The Sefer Torah is returned to the Aron HaKodesh immediately after Haftorah.

Afterwards, Kinos is recited. One should not recite it standing, but should rather sit on a low chair.

One should refrain from casual conversation or other unnecessary interruptions during the recital of Kinos.

After Kinos, the following are recited: Ashrei, Uva L’tziyon (with the omission of the Possuk that begins Va’ani Zos Brisi), and Aleinu. Everything else (including Tehillim) is postponed until Mincha time.

After Uva L’tziyon, the Chazzan omits the line beginning Tiskabel from Kaddish.

A Chiyuv recites the third Perek of Mishnayos Moied Kotton prior to the last Kaddish.

One should recite the book of Eicha after Kinos (and the conclusion of davening).

Where possible, one should time his morning with the aim of concluding Kinos (and Eicha) shortly before midday, as opposed to long beforehand.

A Bris should be postponed until after Kinos. The baby’s parents and Baalei Habris may wear Shabbos clothing for the duration of the Bris, but not leather shoes. The Sandek sits on a regular-height chair whilst the Bris is performed. The Brocho is recited on wine, but is drunk by a child who understands the concept of Brochos (the younger, the better). The Seudah takes place at night, after the fast.

It is not our custom to specifically visit a cemetery on Tishah B’Av.

œ Tishah B’Av Afternoon

In the afternoon, the intensity of mourning lessens and some restrictions are relaxed.

It is customary to wait until midday before preparing for the post-fast meal. However, one may begin preparations for a Seudas Mitzvah before midday.

After midday, it is permitted to sit on chairs of regular height, unless one will still be finishing Kinos.

Chitas is learned after midday, but Rambam is postponed until evening.

œ Mincha

The Paroches is restored to its usual place on the Aron HaKodesh after midday, before Mincha.

Mincha is longer than usual; care should be taken to conclude before sunset.

Before Mincha, one puts on Tallis and Tefillin and recites the entire Shma. This is followed by the selections omitted from the conclusion of Shacharis. [I.e. Shir Shel Yom, Ein Kelokeinu, Tehillim.] These should be recited with a Minyan, and Kaddish is said at the appropriate places.

Ideally, Krias Hatorah should not begin prior to Mincha Gedolah. Shmoneh Esrei may certainly not begin before then.

The passage of Vayechal is read, provided that at least three congregants are fasting.

One who is not fasting (or who anticipates that he won’t be able to finish the fast) must still hear Krias Hatorah of Vayechal, but is not called up for an Aliya. [If he is the only Kohen or Levi, he should absent himself.] If he is called up, and refusing the Aliya will cause him embarrassment and minimize the honour of the Torah, he may accept the Aliya. He should not serve as the Chazzan or the Ba’al Koreh, unless there is no one else to do so.

When the congregation recites the verses aloud, the Ba’al Koreh waits for silence before resuming. The one receiving the Aliya begins reciting these verses with the congregation but concludes with the Ba’al Koreh.

After Haftorah, the Chazzan begins Kaddish when the Torah is returned to the Aron HaKodesh, similar to Mincha on Shabbos.

If an individual forgot to recite Nacheim in the correct place, he may recite it in Sh’ma Koleinu after Aneinu; in Retzei before V’sechezena; or in Modim before V’al Kulam. [In any of these cases, he recites the conclusion of the Brocho as usual, and does not add the words Menachem Tziyon Uvoneh Yerushalayim.] If one didn’t rememberuntil he concluded Shmoneh Esrei, he does not repeat it.

If an individual forgot to recite Aneinu in Sh’ma Koleinu, he may recite it in the passage of Elokai N’tzor, before the second Yih’yu L’ratzon. If one didn’t remembereven then, he does not repeat Shmoneh Esrei.

An individual who is not fasting omits Aneinu but still recites Nacheim.

The Chazzan recites Aneinu between Goel Yisroel and R’faeinu, Nacheim in Boinei Yerushalayim, and also recites Birchas Kohanim toward the end of Shmoneh Esrei. [See 17 Tammuz Guide regarding a Chazzan who forgot to recite Aneinu, or who is not fasting.]

A Chiyuv recites the usual Mishnayos prior to the last Kaddish.

Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin are put on after Mincha, and one recites the usual selections.

One should ensure that he puts on Tefillin before sunset (5:31pm). If one davens with a Minyan which will conclude only after sunset, he should change into Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin before Mincha.

œ Conclusion of fast

One washes Netilas Yadayim (covering the entire hand with water) without a Brocho, and rinses one’s mouth as soon as possible after Maariv, and certainly before Kiddush Levanah or breaking the fast.

If the moon is visible, Kiddush Levanah is recited. Ideally, one should first change into leather shoes, rinse one’s face to freshen up, and taste something, unless this will negate his participation in a Minyan.

The Beis Hamikdash was set ablaze on the afternoon of the 9th of Av, and burned through the 10th. Therefore, the custom is to extend all restrictions of the Nine Days (including consuming meat or wine, or wearing freshly laundered clothing) until midday of the 10th of Av. Nevertheless, since it is Erev Shabbos, the following Shabbos preparations may be done from the morning: Haircuts, bathing, laundry.

œ 15th Av (Wednesday)

One should continue to participate in a Siyum and learn Hilchos Beis Habechira every day until (and including) the 15th of Av.

Tachnun is not recited on the 15th of Av, nor during the Mincha beforehand. It is forbidden to fast on the 15th of Av, even a Chosson and Kallah.

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