BY ARUTZ 7—
The fast of Tisha B’Av, the “saddest” day in the Jewish calendar, begins July 28th at sundown and ends July 29th.
Its name literally means “the ninth day of Av,” the date of some of the gravest tragedies to have befallen the Jewish People. Tisha B’Av is a day of lamentations that first and foremost marks the anniversaries of the destruction of the First and Second Temples by the armies of Babylon and Rome, respectively.
Tisha B’Av Laws
The Sages enacted Yom Kippur-like restrictions on Tisha B’Av, including no eating (minimal wetting of hands and eyes is allowed), drinking, washing, use of cosmetic oils, and marital relations. Leather shoes are not worn, and even Torah study — a major source of Jewish joy — is restricted to topics connected with the Destruction of the Temples, prophecies of rebuke, Tisha B’Av, and the like. Sitting on chairs is not permitted until the afternoon, Tefillin and Tallit are donned only at the mincha (afternoon) service.
The hour before the onset of Tisha B’Av is marked by a “mourning meal,” consisting only of a hard-boiled egg dipped in ashes, bread, and water. It should be eaten while sitting on low stools or on the floor, with each person sitting alone in a different corner of the room.
The regular evening prayer service is followed by the reading aloud, in a traditional mournful melody, of Eichah, Lamentations.
Beside the destruction of the Temples, Jewish history is replete with a list of calamities that took place on this date, including the following:
•G-d decreed, following the Sin of the Spies as recounted in Numbers 13-14, that the Children of Israel would not be allowed to enter the Land of Israel until the entire generation had died out.
•The fall of Beitar, the last fortress to hold out during the Bar Kochba revolt in the year 135 C.E., to the Romans.
•A year later, the Temple area was plowed over, marking the last milestone of national Jewish presence in our homeland until the modern era.
•The Jews of Spain were expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492.
•World War I erupted in 1914, setting the stage for World War II and the Holocaust.
•Mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka death camp began on Tisha B’Av eve of 1942.
•The Jews of Gush Katif spent their last legal day in their homes in Tisha B’Av of 2005, and were expelled three days later.
Despite the sadness of the day, the saddest part of the regular daily prayers – tachanun – is not recited, in the anticipation of the final joyous Redemption that will render Tisha B’Av a day of joy.
In fact, among the Yishuv Hayashan — the residents of Jerusalem before the influx of Zionists — there were those who whitewashed their houses on the afternoon of the fast, so that it would be freshly cleaned and ready to welcome the Messiah.
Many tens of thousands of people spend Tisha B’Av, or parts of it, at the Western Wall – which, together with the Temple Mount, is the sole remnant of the Second Temple. Visitors spend hours mourning the destruction, the Exile of the Divine Presence and the unredeemed state of the Nation of Israel by reciting and studying the traditional Tisha B’Av lamentations and the Scroll of Eichah (Lamentations). The police announced that over a thousand policemen are stationed in the area of the Old City as so many Arabs are on the streets and on the Temple Mount for Ramadan.