Ask the Rov: I start off every day with the study of Chassidus. How about on Tisha b’Av? Can I learn a maamar on the fast day before shacharis?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin, Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah.
Chazal prohibited studying most areas of Torah on Tisha b’Av since Torah “gladdens the heart” and it can distract a person from the requisite mourning. This prohibition applies also to women and children of age to appreciate the churban. It is customary to refrain starting from midday on erev Tisha b’Av since it can bring joy when continuing to think about those studies at night.
One may learn sections of Torah that don’t cause delight. This includes the halachos of Tisha b’Av or mourning or sections of Gemara that discuss the churban or laws of mourning. The Rebbe Rashab would study each year the sections of Gemara and Midrash that discuss the churban. Even these sections should not be studied in depth (pilpul), which is delightful. Chassidus on the theme of Tisha b’Av may be studied, even if it veers into other topics, though some preclude in-depth study.
Torah sections that are part of the daily davening may be recited, since they are standard and don’t cause delight (e.g. eizehu mekoman, pitum haketores). However, the Mishnayos recited by mourners after Maariv and Shacharis should be from Moed Katan (or Taanis) without the additional passage by Rabbi Chananya ben Akashya.
After midday, when the level of mourning decreases, one may learn his daily morning studies, such as chitas. (Studying chitas the following night is considered “making up” and mikra should preferably not be read at night – see issue 473.) The regular Mishnayos by mourners may also be recited. Rambam study was instituted from the outset to be studied after Tisha b’Av.
When Tisha B’av falls on Shabbos or Sunday, the same learning restrictions apply from midday on Shabbos. It is a matter of dispute whether Pirkei Avos is recited after Mincha, and the Rebbe arrived at varying conclusions. In any event, that week’s chapter is repeated the next week.
The Rebbe emphasized that Tisha b’Av is not exempt from Torah study and the constant obligation to study Torah remains; it’s just that the obligation must be fulfilled with the permitted subjects.
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