Fast of Av

Fast of Av

'The Three Weeks’ and the ‘Nine Days’ reach their climax with the fast of Tisha B’Av (9th of Av), the date when both Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. This is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, and it is also the date associated with many other tragedies spanning our nation’s history.  These include:

  • The decree of wandering in the desert after the sins of the spies following the Exodus from Egypt
  • The fall of the fortress of Betar, south of Jerusalem, during the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans, in approximately 135 CE
  • The ploughing over of Jerusalem by the Romans the following year
  • The edict expelling the Jews from England was signed on July 18, 1290 (9th Av, 5050)
  • On August 2, 1941 (9th Av, 5701), SS commander Heinrich Himmler formally received approval from the Nazi Party for "The Final Solution"
  • On July 23, 1942 (9th Av, 5702), began the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka
  • The expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492
  • The beginnings of World War One 

Times

This year, the 9th of Av falls on Sunday 22nd July. The fast starts at 21:05pm on Saturday 21st July and ends at 21:57pm on Sunday 22nd July

As the timings show, the prohibition to eat or drink commences shortly before sunset on Shabbat and there is no ‘seudah mafseket’, the designated mourning-style meal usually eaten shortly before the fast starts on a weekday.

Practices:

As part of our mourning for the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel, we abstain from many pleasurable activities on the night and day of the 9th of Av - starting with sundown on the eve of the day before, and concluding with the following nightfall. The following are some of the practices we abstain from on Tisha B’Av:

  • Eating or drinking.  In general, all adults fast on this day. One who is ill, or a pregnant or nursing woman, should consult with a rabbi and doctor as is necessary to determine if they should fast and to what extent. An ill person who is not fasting should refrain from eating delicacies and should eat only that which is absolutely necessary for their physical wellbeing
  • Wearing leather footwear
  • Sitting on a normal-height chair, until midday
  • Bathing or washing ourselves other than for hygienic reasons
  • Engaging in marital relations or any form of intimacy
  • Sending gifts, or even greeting others with the customary "hello" or "how are you doing?" since we are meant to focus on the national mourning which the day symbolises.  If somebody who is unaware of this does greet you, it is permitted to respond and, if appropriate, let the other person know about this practice
  • Going on outings, trips or similar pleasurable activities

The restrictions of 'The Three Weeks’ will usually start with the fast of Tammuz on the 17th of that month and conclude on the 10th of Av at midday (shortly after 1pm, following ‘seasonal’ hours of sunlight).

Prayer Services

Many communities schedule Maariv prayers for about 30 minutes after Shabbat ends on this particular occasion to allow congregants to say ‘baruch hamavdil bein kodesh lechol’ to formally end Shabbat after its published finishing time, before coming to shul with non-leather shoes and a copy of Eicha, the Megillah we read on Tisha B’Av.  Havdallah is not made on this evening, other than the b’rachah (blessing) over the candle.  The lighting is reduced in the shul and some of the coverings, such as for the bima, may be taken off. This is all to symbolise mourning.

At the Maariv evening services at the start of the fast, we read the book (Megillah) of Eicha, which is found in the Ketuvim (writings) section of the Tanach (Hebrew Bible).  The book was written by the prophet Jeremiah who lived at the time of the destruction of the First Temple.  You can access a PowerPoint version of it by clicking here

On the morning of Tisha B’Av, men wear tzizit (without making a blessing) and do not wear Talit or Tefillin, representing the mourning practices of the day.  Tallit and Tefillin are instead worn for Mincha prayers in the afternoon.

During Shacharit, the Torah reading and Haftarah are mainly read in a low voice.  After this part of the service, we read from the book of Kinot, a lengthy and complex selection of eulogies for tragic events in Jewish history.