Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Ninth of Av
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Selected Halachos of the Days of Tisha B’Av

In this shiur we will explain some of the halachos of Shabbos Chazon, the Seudah HaMafsekes eaten Erev Tisha B’Av, Tisha B’Av itself, and the day after Tisha B’Av.


Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

In this shiur we will explain some of the halachos of Shabbos Chazon, the Seudah HaMafsekes eaten Erev Tisha B’Av, Tisha B’Av itself, and the day after Tisha B’Av.

There is a dispute among poskim whether one demonstrates any signs of mourning on Shabbos Chazon. To understand this dispute, we must first explain the observances of Shabbos during shivah week.

Although Shabbos is technically part of the shivah week, it is forbidden to show any public signs of mourning on Shabbos. However, when no one can observe what one is doing, then one does keep the halachos of shivah. Thus, one does not wash more than obvious and marital relations are prohibited during the shabbos of shivah week. Similarly, a mourner does not learn Torah on Shabbos of shivah week unless it would be noticeable publicly that he is not learning Torah.

A mourner may not be called to the Torah during shivah, even on Shabbos, because he is not permitted to learn Torah. However, Rabbeinu Tam, who was called to the Torah every Shabbos, insisted on being called to the Torah on the Shabbos when he was observing shivah. He contended that since he was called up to Kriyas HaTorah every Shabbos, avoiding such an aliyah on this Shabbos would be a public demonstration of mourning on Shabbos, which is prohibited. In a similar vein, I am aware that Rav Gifter ztz"l once paskened that a certain person should attend a shiur on the Shabbos when he was observing shivah. Because he never missed the shiur, his absence from the shiur would have been a public sign of mourning.

Concerning Shabbos Chazon, there is a difference of opinion whether mourning the loss of the Beis HaMikdash has the same rule as private mourning. According to Rama, mourning the loss of the Beis HaMikdash does not violate the prohibition against public mourning on Shabbos. According to his approach, weekday garb is worn on Shabbos Chazon (Rama 551:1) and melancholy tunes are sung in shul.

The Vilna Gaon disagrees. He contends that there is no qualitative difference between mourning the loss of the Beis HaMikdash and mourning a private loss. In both instances, it is prohibited to have a public display of mourning on Shabbos (Mishnah Berurah 551:6). Those who follow this approach wear Shabbos clothes on Shabbos Chazon and sing regular tunes in shul.

Rama mentions that some time before mincha we eat a regular meal in order to have strength to fast. After mincha, we have a final meal that is the seudah hamafsekes.

The last meal eaten before the fast begins is called the seudah hamafsekes. The Mishnah rules that this meal may have no more than one cooked dish. (This means that the meal consists of bread, uncooked items, and one cooked dish, but no more.)

The Gemara describes how Rabbi Yehudah ate his seudah hamafsekes. He sat next to the oven, the most uncomfortable place in the house, and appeared like a mourner whose beloved deceased lay before him. This is the emotion that should be conveyed while eating the seudah hamafsekes. The custom is to eat the seudah mafsekes while sitting on the floor (Shulchan Aruch 552:7). However, one is not required to remove one’s shoes beforehand (Rama 552:7).

Although the Mishnah rules that it is permitted to eat cooked food at the seudah hamafsekes (provided one eats no more than one cooked course), the Gemara describes Rabbi Yehudah’s meal as dried bread dipped in salt and washed down with tepid water. Therefore, our practice is to eat only bread and a hard-boiled egg (Rama 552:5). However, the custom is to dip the egg into ashes instead of salt (Rama 552:6), and to recite while eating it: "zehu seudas Tisha B’Av," "this is the meal of Tisha B’Av" (Yerushalmi).

It is noteworthy that some poskim contend that some of the halachos of Tisha B’Av itself begin with the seudah hamafsekes. According to this opinion, once one begins eating the seudah hamafsekes, bathing and anointing are forbidden, just like on Tisha B’Av itself (Ramban, as explained by Tur 553). However, in practice we do not follow this approach.

After completing the seudah hamafsekes it is permitted to eat and drink, provided one has not yet decided to begin the fast. (This is called in halacha "accepting the fast upon oneself.") However, once one decides to begin the fast, one may no longer eat or drink.

There is a dispute among the poskim as to what constitutes "beginning" the fast. According to some poskim, once one has mentally decided to begin the fast, one may no longer eat or drink, even though one did not verbalize that decision (Bach; Gra). Other poskim rule that eating is forbidden only if one verbalizes that one is accepting the fast (Beis Yosef; Rama). In any instance, one is required to begin the fast at sunset.

One should preferably eat the seudah hamafsekes alone in order to contemplate the ramifications of the Churban (Tur 552, quoting Rosh). Furthermore, by eating alone one fulfills the posuk of Eicha (3:28), "Yeisheiv badad viyidom," "Let him sit alone and be silent," (Beis Yosef 552, quoting Rabbeinu Meshulam).

There is a dispute among poskim whether three men who eat the seudah hamafsekes together are required to bensch with a zimun (Tur). Eating alone avoids this dispute and is an additional reason to eat this meal alone (see Beis Yosef; Shulchan Aruch 552:8).

After completing Eicha on Tisha B’Av night, we recite the prayer V’atah Kadosh. An almost identical version of this prayer is also recited on weekdays at the end of shacharis (and Shabbos and Yom Tov in mincha), adding the introductory words, Uva l’tziyon. It is also recited at night on Motzei Shabbos, Purim and Tisha B’Av. Why is this prayer recited on these occasions?

Uva L’tziyon includes one of the three daily recitations of kedusha. The other two are said after Borchu as part of the Birchos Kriyas Shema and in the repetition of the Shmoneh Esrei. The words of Kedusha parallel the exalted, sublime praise recited by the angels. Singing Hashem’s praises in this fashion demonstrates our ability to rise to the level of the angels.

Uva L’tziyon, the third daily recital of Kedusha, is an extremely important prayer. The Gemara asks, "Now that the Beis HaMikdash is destroyed, in what merit does the world exist?" The Gemara answers that the world continues to exist in the merit of two prayers: The Kedusha said during "Uva l’tziyon" at the end of Shacharis and the Kaddish recited after public learning (Sotah 49a). Both these prayers include two highly important mitzvos-learning Torah and declaring the sanctity of Hashem through Kedusha and Kaddish (Rashi ad loc.). Why are these two mitzvos special? Studying Torah is our feeble attempt to understand a glimmer of the brilliant blueprint with which the world was created. Reciting Kedusha and Kaddish is our attempt to create the highest form of praise recited in Hashem’s honor. By combining these two concepts we literally maintain the world’s existence.

When this special tefillah is recited at night, its two opening verses are omitted because they begin by saying, "Uva l’tziyon goel," "And the redeemer will come to Tzion" a prayer that is inappropriate at night, because the redemption will occur during the daytime.

The verse "V’atah kadosh yosheiv tehillos Yisroel," "And You are holy, enthroned by the praises of Yisroel" (Tehillim 22) that introduces this prayer (at night) means that the sanctity of Hashem depends on the praises of klal Yisroel. A second factor, manifesting Hashem’s sanctity is the redemption of the Jewish people. Therefore, on Purim we recite this prayer immediately after completing Megillas Esther, expressing the manifestation of Hashem’s kedusha that resulted from our redemption. We recite this prayer on the night of Tisha B’Av because it is a special time to pray for the ultimate redemption when Hashem’s kedusha will be universally recognized (Aruch HaShulchan 693:1).

A mourner does not wear tefillin on his first day of mourning. This is derived from the Book of Yechezkel (24:17) where Yechezkel received a prophecy that his wife will die and that he will not be permitted to observe the laws of mourning for her.

Among the instructions Yechezkel received was, "Pe’ercha chavosh alecha," "Your ornament shall be worn on your head." This meant that he had to continue to wear his tefillin. From here we derive that only Yechezkel, who was forbidden to mourn properly, had to continue to wear tefillin after his wife’s passing, whereas a regular mourner must remove his tefillin under similar circumstances. (This rule only applies on the first day of mourning. A mourner does wear tefillin for the rest of the shivah. It should be noted that there is a dispute among poskim whether a mourner wears tefillin on the first day of mourning when it is not the actual day of death. There are various customs concerning this matter.)

What is the status of Tisha B’Av? Is it like the first day of mourning, since this is the very day that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed? Or is Tisha B’Av different from regular instances of mourning since it is not the actual day that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed but only commemorative of the event? This is question is disputed among poskim. Some poskim ruled that the loss of the Beis HaMikdash is far greater than regular mourning and that one may not wear tefillin at all on Tisha B’Av (Maharam, quoted by Tur Orach Chayim 555; Rabbeinu Yerucham, quoted by Beis Yosef ibid.).

On a homiletic level, one could explain that wearing tefillin on Tisha B’Av is a contradiction. The Torah states that the Jews removed the ornaments they had received after worshipping the golden calf. Rav Hirsch (Shmos 33:4) explains that these ornaments were tefillin that are, after all, the only truly Jewish ornament. Just as the Jews at that time removed their tefillin out of embarrassment at their sin, so we should not wear tefillin as a sign of our embarrassment over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

One opinion contends that one should not wear tefillin of the head on Tisha B’Av, but that one may wear the tefillin of the arm. This is because the "pe’er" (glory) mentioned in Sefer Yechezkel (24:17) refers only to the tefillin worn on the head.

Many poskim, however, contend that Tisha B’Av is not considered the same as the first day of mourning and that one must wear tefillin (Rosh, quoted by Tur).

As a compromise, the Ashkenazic practice is to refrain from wearing tefillin until mincha. Thus, the morning is treated like the first day of shivah, while the afternoon is treated as the middle days of shivah when it is permitted (and obligatory) to wear tefillin.

Some Sefardim follow the Ashkenazic practice just mentioned, whereas others wear tefillin during shacharis and remove them before reciting kinos. Still others don tefillin at home before leaving for shul in the morning, but do not wear tefillin in public.

The Tur, quoting Maharam, reports that there were different customs regarding the
wearing of tzitzis on Tisha B’Av. Some men did not wear tzitzis at all, while others wore
a tallis katan under their clothes and did not wear a tallis gadol.

However, the poskim note that no halachic sources forbid a mourner from wearing tzitzis. Thus, they find the custom to refrain from wearing a tallis on Tisha B’Av strange. However, there is a medrash on Eicha that implies that one does not wear tzitzis on Tisha B’Av. Because of this medrash and the custom mentioned by the Tur, it is accepted Ashkenazic practice to delay wearing the tallis gadol until mincha. In addition, many have the custom to leave the tzitzis of the tallis katon under one’s clothes until after midday (even if they usually wear the tzitzis on top of their clothes). At mincha, one puts on the tallis gadol.

There is a dispute among poskim whether children may study Torah on Tisha B’Av. The Gemara states that the chadorim (Torah elementary schools) must be closed. However, some poskim rule that children may study Torah on Tisha B’Av because a child is coerced to learn Torah and does not enjoy it (Taz 554:1). According to this logic, a child who wants to learn Torah on his own on Tisha B’Av should not be discouraged from doing so since his learning is not out of enjoyment (Biyur Halacha ad loc.). On the other hand, other poskim rule that children are forbidden to learn Torah like adults (Bach and Magen Avraham).

The Ramban mentions that some people had the custom of skipping "Eizehu Mekomam" and the verses of korbanos on Tisha B’Av because their reading constitutes studying Torah. However, he rules that one should say everything that is part of the daily davening. An additional reason to recite the korbanos is because their verses are a substitute for the morning korban tamid of the Beis HaMikdash (Ramban, quoted by Tur and Shulchan Aruch 554:4).

The Gemara rules that all women must fast the entire Tisha B’Av, even if they are pregnant or nursing (Pesachim 54b), provided that they are not ill and that there is no danger to the baby. Some contemporary poskim rule that today pregnant women should not fast because the chance of endangering the baby is high (Even Yisrael 9:61) A woman within 30 days following childbirth is not required to fast on Tisha B’Av. A sick person is forbidden to fast on Tisha B’Av even if one’s illness is not life threatening (Shulchan Aruch 554:6).

On other fast days (Shivah Asar B’Tammuz, Asarah B’Teves, Tzom Gedalyah) there is a dispute whether a pregnant woman is required to fast. (It should be noted that Taanis Esther is treated more leniently than the other fast days.) Rabbeinu Yerucham rules that pregnant women are not permitted to fast on these fast days because this causes the fetus to suffer, whereas the Maharam rules that pregnant women must fast unless they themselves are suffering. A third opinion, Rabbeinu Tam, rules that a pregnant woman may fast but is not obligated to do so (Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 554). In practice, the Shulchan Aruch (554:5) rules that pregnant women and nursing mothers are not required to fast, while the Rama concludes that the custom is that they fast unless they are very uncomfortable (550:1; 554:6). Obviously, a woman who is ill or who risks danger by fasting is forbidden to fast.

There are several halachic differences between fasting on Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur. One difference is germane to the halacha of eating pachos m’keshiur, eating less than the minimum amount. If fasting might endanger a person’s life, he/she is forbidden to fast. On Yom Kippur, if a small amount of food or beverage removes the danger (as is usually the case), one should only eat very small amounts of food and beverage at one time because of the halacha of pachos m’keshiur. Simply stated, this means that eating minute amounts of food and beverage at one time is a smaller Yom Kippur infraction than eating a full measure.

Therefore, if the potential danger is eliminated by eating or drinking pachos m’keshiur, one is permitted to eat and drink only that much. (It should be noted that a regular person is forbidden min haTorah to consume the tiniest amount of food or liquid on Yom Kippur. The rule of pachos m’keshiur only applies to someone who is forbidden to fast.)

The halacha concerning eating small quantities applies to Yom Kippur and not to Tisha B’Av (Shulchan Aruch 554:6). A sick person is completely excluded from the mitzvah of fasting on Tisha B’Av. Therefore, he is not required to try to consume less than the minimum amount. However, anyone who is eating on a fast day because of medical necessity should eat only enough for his essential needs and not eat in excess (see Shulchan Aruch 554:5).

Biyur Halacha quotes Pesach HaDvir who ruled that someone eating on a fast day because of the danger created by a cholera epidemic should eat only small amounts (even other than Yom Kippur). Some have compared this to contemporary situations of pregnant women or people who are otherwise healthy but there is concern about their fasting. This comparison is inaccurate. Biyur Halacha was only discussing a case of someone who is completely healthy and therefore included in the takanas Chazal to fast; however, there is a danger in his fasting because of external circumstances, such as an epidemic. Pregnant women and ill people are not considered fully healthy and are not required to fast.

The Mishnah states that it is permitted to work on Tisha B’Av provided that one lives in a place where this is the accepted practice (Pesachim 54b). In many places, the minhag was that people did not work. The Mishnah concludes that Torah scholars customarily do not work on Tisha B’Av even if they live in a community where the practice is to be lenient. Furthermore, the Gemara (Taanis 30b) states that an individual will not see any bracha from work performed on Tisha B’Av. This is explained by the poskim to mean that all the profits he gains from such work will be lost.

The Mishnah continues with a second dispute. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel rules that it is meritorious for a regular person to imitate Torah scholars and refrain from working on Tisha B’Av. The Sages, however, disagree, arguing that it is pretentious for someone who is not a Torah scholar to act as the scholars do. Although Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel agrees with the Sages that one may not behave pretentiously, he argues that not working on Tisha B’Av does not demonstrate such behavior since people can assume that he simply has no work on that day (Pesachim 55a; Berachos 17b).

This discussion teaches that it is forbidden to perform mitzvos ostentatiously (Pesachim 55a; Berachos 17b; see also Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 34:3). The Gemara refers to this prohibition as yohara, showing off, allowing the yetzer hora to masquerade as the yetzer tov. (A person thinks he is behaving righteously by being machmir, when in reality his yetzer hora is encouraging him to show off.)

In some places there is a custom to wash the floors and clean the house on the afternoon of Tisha B’Av. This custom is based on a mesorah that Moshiach will be born on Tisha B’Av afternoon and that it is therefore appropriate to commemorate the redemption and strengthen people’s hopes and prayers (based on Beis Yosef 554 and Kolbo). Although this seems like unnecessary work on Tisha B’Av that should be postponed, the poskim rule that one should not discourage those who follow this custom (Birkei Yosef 559:7).

The Mishnah states, "M’shenichnas Av, mema’atim b’simcha", "When the month of Av begins, we decrease our happiness" (Taanis 26b) and this includes not making weddings. An additional reason cited to forbid weddings during the first nine days of Av is that since Av is a month of bad mazal for Jews, one should postpone a wedding to a more auspicious date (Beis Yosef 551; Magen Avrohom 551:8). However, it does not state how much time one must wait to make a wedding after Tisha B’Av. In practice, this is a subject of dispute among poskim and various customs. In most places, the custom is to allow weddings from the beginning of the eleventh of Av, while in some places the practice is to delay weddings until after Shabbos Nachamu.

There is an additional reason to be strict on the Tenth of Av. Most of the Beis HaMikdash burnt on the Tenth of Av. The Gemara quotes Rabbi Yochanan saying that if he had been alive at the time of the Churban, he would have declared the fast for the Tenth of Av, rather than the Ninth (Taanis 29a). For this reason, Ashkenazim treat the morning of the Tenth of Av with the stringencies of the Nine Days, whereas Sefardim apply these stringencies to the entire tenth day until nightfall.

The prophet Yeshaya declared: "Exult with Yerushalayim and rejoice over her, all those who love her. Rejoice with her rejoicing all those who mourned over her," (Yeshaya 66:10). "From here we see," says the Gemara, "that whoever mourns over Yerushalayim will merit to see her happiness, and whoever does not mourn over Yerushalayim will not merit to see her happiness" (Taanis 30b).

May we all merit to experience the happiness of Yerushalayim very soon!

This article appeared originally in the American edition of Yated Neeman

This Shiur is published also at Rabbi Kaganof's site
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