Select Halachos of the Days Surrounding Tisha B’Av

This article will discuss some of the halachos of Shabbos Chazon, Tisha B’Av itself, and the day after Tisha B’Av. Since this year Tisha B’Av is observed on Sunday, we do not eat the regular Seudah Hamafsekes immediately before the fast and I have, therefore, omitted the laws concerning that meal.

WHAT PRACTICES DO WE OBSERVE ON SHABBOS CHAZON?

The poskim dispute 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, for what others do not see, one keeps the halachos of shivah. Thus, one wash enough that it is not obvious others that he has not washed. Similarly, 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, since Rabbeinu Tam was called to the Torah every Shabbos, he insisted on the aliyah when he was observing shivah. Since he was called up every Shabbos, missing it would be a public demonstration of mourning, which is prohibited on Shabbos. Similarly, Rav Gifter once paskened for someone to attend a shiur on the Shabbos of shivah because he never missed.

Concerning Shabbos Chazon, the poskim disagree whether mourning the loss of the Beis HaMikdash has the same rule as private mourning. Rema contends that mourning the loss of the Beis HaMikdash does not violate public mourning on Shabbos. According to his approach, weekday garb is worn on Shabbos Chazon (Rema, Orach Chayim 551:1) and melancholy tunes are sung in shul.

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

V’ATAH KADOSH

After completing Eicha on Tisha B’Av night, we recite the prayer V’atah Kadosh, even when Tisha B’Av does not fall on Motzaei Shabbos. 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 two introductory pesukim. It is also recited at night every Motzaei Shabbos, Purim and Tisha B’Av. Why is this prayer recited on these occasions?

Uva L’tziyon includes one of the four daily recitations of kedusha. Two of the others are said in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, one in Shacharis and one in Mincha, and the other time is part of the Birkos Keri’as Shema in Shacharis. 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 recital of Kedusha during Shacharis, 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 prayer is recited at night, its two opening verses are omitted because they begin by saying, “Uva L’tziyon go’el,” “And the redeemer will come to Tzion,” a prayer that is inappropriate at night, because the redemption will occur during the daytime.

WHY IS THIS PRAYER RECITED ON TISHA B’AV?

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 in 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 finally recognized (Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 693:1).

DO WE WEAR TEFILLIN ON TISHA B’AV?

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 a dispute 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 (Shemos 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 from 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.

DOES ONE WEAR TZITZIS ON TISHA B’AV?

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 it strange why the custom was to refrain from wearing a tallis on Tisha B’Av. 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 katan 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.

STUDYING TORAH ON TISHA B’AV

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 they learn Torah out of coercion and not because they enjoy it (Taz, Orach Chayim 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 (Biur Halacha ad loc.). On the other hand, other poskim rule that children are forbidden to learn Torah, like adults (Bach and Magen Avraham).

DO WE RECITE THE SECTIONS OF DAVENING THAT INCLUDE THE STUDY OF TORAH?

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, Orach Chayim 554:4).

SELECT LAWS OF FASTING ON TISHA B’AV

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). According to all opinions, a woman less than 30 days since 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,Orach Chayim 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 (Orach Chayim 554:5) rules that pregnant women and nursing mothers are not required to fast, while the Rema concludes that the custom is that they fast unless they are very uncomfortable (Orach Chayim 550:1; 554:6). Obviously, a woman who is ill or who risks danger by fasting is forbidden to fast. The prevalent accepted practice today is that pregnant women and nursing mothers do not fast.

SHOULD SOMEONE WHO IS NOT FASTING ON TISHA B’AV EAT IN SMALL QUANTITIES?

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.

There is a Biur Halacha who quotes from the Pesach Hadvir that when eating because a

cholera epidemic poses a risk to life, someone should eat pachos m’keshiur on Tisha B’Av. Some have compared this ruling to pregnant or nursing women who are not fasting on Tisha B’Av. However, this is not an accurate comparison. The Biur Halacha is discussing someone completely healthy and, therefore, included in the takanas Chazal, but it is dangerous to fast. All the other cases involve someone not fully healthy who is not permitted to fast.

MAY ONE GO TO WORK ON TISHA B’AV?

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 blessing from work performed on Tisha B’Av. This is explained by the poskim to mean that whatever profit he gains from such work will be lost in some other way.

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 if he is a Torah scholar. Although Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel agrees with the Sages that it is forbidden to behave pretentiously, he argues that not working on Tisha B’Av does not demonstrate pretentious behavior – why should people assume that he has work to do 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 yetzer tov. (A person thinks he is behaving righteously by being machmir, when in reality his yetzer hora is encouraging him to show off.)

WASHING FLOORS ON TISHA B’AV AFTERNOON

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, Orach Chayim 554 and Kolbo). Although this seems like unnecessary work on Tisha B’Av that should be postponed, poskim rule that one should not discourage those who follow this custom (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 559:7).

MAY ONE SCHEDULE A WEDDING FOR THE DAY AFTER TISHA B’AV?

The Mishnah states, “Mishenichnas 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 mazel for Jews, one should postpone a wedding to a more auspicious date (Beis Yosef 551; Magen Avraham 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 they delayed scheduling weddings until after Shabbos Nachamu.

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 experiencing the happiness of Yerushalayim very soon!