What is Tisha B’Av About?
The saddest day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’Av primarily commemorates the Babylonian destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and the Roman destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE.
Since then, numerous other tragedies have befallen the Jewish people on Tisha B’Av. Accordingly, Jews observe this day as a national fast day and a day of mourning. In Jewish law, many pleasurable activities are forbidden, and many of the restrictions generally observed by a mourner are followed.
The Book of Lamentations, or Megillat Eicha, is read at night, and kinnot, a series of mournful poems, are recited throughout the night and day. Many of the kinnot mourn tragedies other than the destruction of the Temples, such as the Crusades and the Holocaust. This introspective video looks at the curious structure of Megillat Eicha and discovers a hidden guidebook for how to deal with tragedy.
Many find it hard to connect to tragedies in history that seem far removed. Still others find it hard to know how to channel their grief into something constructive. To find answers to these and other questions about Tisha B’Av, start watching here.
What Does Tisha B’Av Mean?
Tisha B’Av means “the ninth of Av” in Hebrew (“Av” is the name of a Hebrew month), referring to the date of this fast day, and the date of some of the tragedies it commemorates.
Laws & Restrictions of Tisha B’Av
Because of its status as a period of intense mourning, there are many laws and restrictions applied to the ninth of Av. Many of these restrictions are the same as those that are applied on Yom Kippur. However, Yom Kippur places restrictions on physicality as a sign of atonement and extreme focus on God, whereas Tisha B’Av restrictions are acts of mourning.
As with Yom Kippur, many Tisha B’Av prohibitions extend for the entirety of the “day” as defined by Jewish law, from sundown on the eighth of Av to one hour after sundown on the ninth of Av.
Food and drink
Tisha B’Av is a fast day on which all eating and drinking
Other Tisha B’Av prohibitions restrict bathing, applying ointments, oils, creams, or perfumes, and washing of the hands above the knuckle. It is also forbidden to cut or shave one’s
Intimacy is prohibited on the ninth of Av.
Wearing leather shoes
Leather footwear is forbidden on Tisha B’Av. Shoes made of cloth, canvas, rubber, or plastic may be worn instead.
Sitting in chairs
The Jewish mourning custom of sitting on the floor or on low stools while sitting Shiva is observed on Tisha B’Av. Chairs and couches of a normal height should not be used until midday on the ninth of Av.
It is traditional not to greet others on the ninth of Av, to preserve the somber atmosphere of the day. Like the custom to sit on the floor, some observe this tradition until midday.
On Tisha B'Av, it is forbidden to study Torah since this is considered an enjoyable activity. However, upsetting texts such as the Book of Lamentations, and portions of Jeremiah are permitted. It is also permissible to study chapters of the Talmud that discuss the laws of mourning.
Air travel is to be avoided on Tisha B’Av.
Other Tisha B’Av Practices
When Is Tisha B’Av?
The fast of Tisha B’Av takes place on the ninth day of the month of Av – or the tenth
The Tisha B’Av dates on the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars are:
- Sat, 21 July 2018 at sundown (10th of Av, 5778)
- Sat, 10 August 2019 at sundown (10th of Av, 5779)
- Wed, 29 July 2020 at sundown (9th of Av, 5780)
- Sat, 17 July 2021 at sundown (9th of Av, 5781)
- Sat, 06 August 2022 at sundown (10th of Av, 5782)
- Wed, 26 July 2023 at sundown (9th of Av, 5783)
- Mon, 12 August 2024 at sundown (9th of Av, 5784)
- Sat, 02 August 2025 at sundown (9th of Av, 5785)
- Wed, 22 July 2026 at sundown (9th of Av, 5786)
The Ninth of Av in the Bible
According to the Mishnah (Ta'anit 4:6), we fast on the ninth of Av because of five calamities that took place on that day. The earliest of these is the first source of Tisha B’Av in the Bible.
Before the Israelites entered the land of Israel, they sent spies to scout out the land. When the spies brought back a negative report, the Israelites cried on the 9th of Av, demonstrating a lack of faith in God. This generation was punished and forbidden to enter the land. God decreed that, as the Israelites had wept for false purposes on the ninth of Av, this day would become a day of weeping for true misfortune forever (Numbers 13–14).
The other calamities that took place on Tisha B’Av throughout history are:
- The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, which the Talmud tells us began to burn on the ninth of Av and continued through the tenth. For this reason, some observe mourning practices until midday on the tenth of Av.
- The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans and resulted in the Jewish exile from the Holy Land and the scattering of Judea.
- The Romans killed more than 500,000 Jews on July 8th, 135 CE, or the 9th of Av, 3892, during the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt.
- Turnus Rufus,
Romancommander who crushed the Bar Kokhba revolt, further demolished the site of the Temple and its surrounding area.
The Ninth of Av in Jewish History
There are several other historical events that are also linked to the tragic day of 9 Av. These include:
- The expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290, and from Spain in 1492.
- The outbreak of World War I in 1914, which caused the upheaval of many Jewish communities and started the groundwork for World War II.
- The Final Solution by Heinrich Himmler was approved on the ninth of Av in 1941, leading to the Holocaust, which killed
one thirdof the world's Jewish population.
- The mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka in 1942.
Tisha B’Av Davening & Prayers
After the meal, once the fast begins,
Kinnot are songs and poems of lamentation and mourning, many of which were composed during tragic periods of Jewish history. Early
During the afternoon service, a special passage called Nachem is inserted in the Shmoneh Esrei prayers. “Nachem” means comfort, and the prayer begs God to console the suffering mourners of Zion and Jerusalem following its brutal destruction by the enemies of Israel.
The Shabbat after Tisha B'Av is called Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of Comforting. We read the Haftarah from the Book of Isaiah, which speaks of comforting the Jewish people for all their suffering. This is the first of the seven Haftarot that express the theme of redemption, leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Guide To Megillat Eicha
Lamentations or, in Hebrew, Megillat Eicha, was written by Jeremiah the Prophet after the destruction of the first Temple (Beit Hamikdash). The Hebrew word “Eicha” means “How?”. Jeremiah begins by asking “How does Jerusalem, a city once full of people, now find itself without anyone?” Click below for Rabbi David Fohrman’s interpretive reflection on the text of Lamentations.