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Chapter 10: The Laws of Tisha Be-Av

17. Removing the Curtain from the Ark; Talit and Tefilin

We remove the curtain from the synagogue’s ark prior to Ma’ariv. Many have a custom not to wear a talit or tefilin at Shaĥarit.


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Cheshvan 24 5782

We remove the curtain from the synagogue’s ark prior to Ma’ariv, as it says, "The Lord has done what He purposed, has carried out the decree (bitza emrato)" (Eikha 2:17). Using a play on words, the Sages interpret the phrase bitza emrato to mean that God, as it were, tore His garment. This expresses the depths to which we have sunk since the Temple was destroyed (Rema 559:2). We return the curtain to its proper place before Minĥa (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 559:19). Many have a custom not to wear a talit or tefilin at Shaĥarit. Just as God, as it were, tore His garment, we too refrain from wearing a talit. And just as the verse states, "He has cast down from heaven to earth the majesty of Israel" (Eikha 2:1), which refers to God’s tefilin, so too we refrain from crowning ourselves with tefilin. However, since most Rishonim maintain that the mitzva of wearing tefilin applies on Tisha Be-Av as it does on all other days, we wear a talit and tefilin at Minĥa.

We refrain from these mitzvot at Shaĥarit because that is when our mourning and pain reach their peak, with the recitation of the Kinot. By the time we pray Minĥa, however, we can already accept some consolation. Shulĥan Arukh rules that we follow this practice (555:1), and all Ashkenazic communities, as well as many Sephardic communities, follow it. However, one should wear his talit katan (tzitzit) from the beginning of the day as usual. Since it is uncertain whether one should recite a berakha when putting on tzitzit on the morning of Tisha Be-Av, it is preferable to sleep in one’s tzitzit on the night of Tisha Be-Av. This way, one will not be obligated to recite the berakha in the morning. Only before Minĥa should one recite the berakha, upon wrapping himself in his talit.

Some are careful not to recite Shema without wearing a talit and tefilin, so they put them on at home before Shaĥarit, recite Shema, and then go to pray with the congregation without wearing a talit and tefilin. Some Sephardic communities have the custom to wear a talit and tefilin at Shaĥarit, as usual. Each community should continue following its custom.20

  1. 20. According to Raavad, one should not wear tefilin on Tisha Be-Av, just like a mourner does not wear tefilin on his first day of mourning. Others maintain that although there is no obligation to wear tefilin on Tisha Be-Av, there is also no prohibition to do so. Me’iri quotes this in the name of "a few sages," and Magid Mishneh explains that this is Rambam’s opinion (regarding the tefilin worn on the head). Ramban, Rashba, Rosh, and most Rishonim maintain that one must wear tefilin on Tisha Be-Av. The prevalent custom, as cited in sa 555:1, is not to wear them until Minĥa. Similarly, Maharam of Rothenburg and other Rishonim are quoted as saying that at Shaĥarit one should act as if it is the first day of one’s personal mourning and refrain from wearing tefilin. However, after Minĥa time, one must put on his tefilin, as if it is an ordinary day. Many great Sephardic sages, as well as a few Ashkenazic sages, took care to wear their talit and tefilin before Shaĥarit, in order to recite the Shema in the optimal way; afterward, they would go to the synagogue and pray with the congregation without wearing a talit and tefilin. This was the practice of Maharam Galanti. Some suggested that everyone should adopt this practice, including Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 1, Devarim 25 and R. Ĥayim Palachi. Some communities prayed together while wearing their talitot and tefilin. Knesset Ha-gedola states that this was the custom in Salonica, and Shulĥan Gavo’ah attests that this was the custom in Izmir. The kabbalists of Yeshivat Ha-mekubalim ("Beit El") in Jerusalem also followed this custom, as cited in Kaf Ha-ĥayim 555:4. If one’s father’s custom is to wear tefilin at Shaĥarit in the synagogue, and he himself prays in a congregation where they do not wear tefilin, he should put on tefilin at home, recite Shema, and then join the congregation at the synagogue without wearing tefilin.↩︎

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