By Rabbi Yissachar Dov Krakowski, Matzav.com
The following is meant as a convenient review of Halachos pertaining to Tisha B’Av. The Piskei Din for the most part are based purely on the Sugyos, Shulchan Aruch and Ramah, and the Mishna Berura, unless stated otherwise. They are based on my understanding of the aforementioned texts through the teachings of my Rebeim. As individual circumstances are often important in determining the psak in specific cases, and as there may be different approaches to some of the issues, one should always check with one’s Rov first.
Erev Tisha BeAv:
- 1) Starting on Erev Tisha BeAv from Chatzos on, there is a Minhag not to learn anything which is Assur to learn on Tisha BeAv itself (see Section on forbidden activities and practices on Tisha BeAv).
- a) This should not come at the expense of not learning althogether. If a person will either do nothing with their time or learn regularly it is better to learn regularly.
- 2) On Erev Tisha BeAv it is accepted amongst all of Klal-Yisroel not to eat meat or drink wine (unless Erev Tisha BeAv is Shabbos).
- a) If one makes a seudas Mitzva one may have meat (there is some disagreement as to whether one may drink wine).
- b) For the Seudas Mafsekes , meat should NOT be eaten under any circumstances (other than when it is Shabbos). The prohibition on meat holds true even if one is making a Siyum Mesechta).
- c) The basic Minhag is to eat just bread (without even dipping it in salt) and water at the Seudas Mafsekes. The Seudas Mafsekes is eaten on the ground. As it is not intended for social gathering or for socializing, it should also be eaten alone. When there are a number of people in the same house they should eat it separately, each one on his own (i.e. not sitting in a circle together or the like). While it is preferable to refrain from all socializing, one must make sure not to eat as three or more people together as this would obligate the men involved in a Zimun. [The reason for this is that since this meal isn’t meant for socializing, there is no kvius together even if it was eaten together. Therefore, it is important to avoid putting ourselves in a situation in which it is questionable whether it is necessary to me Mezamem]. In the event three people did eat the meal together they still shouldn’t be mezamen (refer to brackets).
- i) There are those that are accustomed to eat a boiled egg dipped in Ash as the Vilna Gaon states, maintaining that the last meal needs to be as simple as possible. See Maaseh Rav).
- ii) There are those who dip their bread in ash.
- d) If after eating the Seuda Mafsekes a person intends to still drink or brush their teeth (it is preferable not to eat as the whole idea of the Seuda is to make the last eating an eating of mourning) one must make a tnai (an explicit stipulation) to continue eating and/or drinking after their benching. If one doesn’t make a provision to continue eating and/or drinking, one is an assumed to have accepted the fast.
- 3) Erev Tisha BeAv there is an issur on all the things that we are Noheg not to do during the nine-days and/or the week of Tisha BeAv (i.e. we do not wash our bodies, do laundry etc.)
Fasting Tisha BeAv:
- 1) On all of the four fasts related to the Churban Beis Hamikdash Chazal decreed that all members of Klal-Yisroel must fast. Chazal explain this to be the case during a period of oppression against Klal-Yisroel. When,Klal-Yisroel is being left alone, these fasts – aside from Tisha-BeAv – are only customary.
- a) Although they are customary they are Minhag Yisroel (Minhag Yisroel is deemed to have the strength of halacha) and thus all Jewish adults must fast.
- i) If one for some reason doesn’t fast, one should make up the fast on another day. (One may choose the shortest day of the year to do so)
- b) Pregnant women or nursing mothers who have a difficult time fasting shouldn’t fast these fasts (the other fasts other than Tisha BeAv see further for Tisha BeAv). If they do not have a difficult time the Ramah still Paskens that they do not have to fast if they don’t want to.
- i) The general rule that one who is not fasting needs to make up the fast on some other day does not apply to a pregnant woman or nursing mother.
- ii) Although in Halacha it is only brought that a pregnant or nursing mother is patur from fasting, there are those that maintain any mother during her childbearing years (if she is married (it is crucial that she is married) doesn’t have to fast except for Tisha BeAv. Women facing such a situation should ask their Rov. It would also seem that this isn’t applicable for women on birth control. (Women on birth control – unless nursing – should fast just like all other Jewish adults)
- c) On Tisha BeAv even pregnant women and nursing mothers should try to fast as long as they can (as they are not patur from fasting as there is a Rabbinic obligation to fast). It is only when they feel weak and that there is a necessity to drink, that they should break their fast (HaRav Yisroel Belsky Shlita). Once they have broken their fast there is no reason for them to minimize their eating.
- i) Although there is no reason to minimize the volume of food they are to consume they still should refrain from eating delicacies and various other luxury foods.
- ii) After they have tried to fast the Minhag is that they need not make up the fast.
- iii) There are those who are Noheg that pregnant women do not even begin to fast on Tisha BeAv (there is very little if any Halachik backing to this hanhaga, but many of the chosheve senior Poskim have such a Mesorah. I have personally heard this from many family members who heard this from my great uncle the Veiner Rov Zetzal and from my wife’s grandfather Harav Lipa Rabinowitz who says it in the name of his grandfather the Sundlander Rov Zatzal).
- iv) Women very soon after birth don’t fast (for the first seven days for sure).
- d) People who are sick or very weak on Tisha BeAv have the same din as on any other Taanis.
- i) If they would like to continue fasting and they know it poses no real danger to their personal well being then they may. However one must bear in mind that, should they stop fasting, they will need to make up this fast another time.
- (1) Although when they make up the fast at another point in time they need to fast for a 24hr + period of time, they do not need to perform the other stringencies of Tisha BeAv such as not washing, not wearing leather shoes etc.
- ii) If they have already fasted past Chatzos then they do not need to make up the fast at a future point in time.
- iii) If continued fasting poses even the slightest threat to one’s well being, one must then break one’s fast.
- 2) On Tisha BeAv minors who are already at an age at which they can understand the Churban should not eat and drink “treat”-like foods.
- a) It is hard to give an exact age for the above: much depends on the child. From age nine and up there are many that are Noheg that children should fast until Chatzos.
- i) If they are having a difficult time fasting they should break their fast.
- b) The Minhag is that the year before Bar/Bas Mitzva children should attempt to fast the entire fast.
- i) Obviously, if they are having a difficult time with fasting they should break their fast.
- (1) They have no obligation to make up the fast.
Smachos on Tisha BeAv:
- 1) The father making a bris as well as the Sandek and Mohel put on Shabbos clothing.
- a) They are not permitted to eat on Tisha BeAv and the meal is made in the evening following.
- 3) It is permissible to get engaged on Tisha BeAv.
- a) The Chosson and Kalah should refrain from wearing Shabbos clothing unless they risk the shidduch by not looking sufficiently presentable without wearing Shabbos garb.
- b) Nowadays, since there is in any case a general an unofficial understanding before the official engagement takes place, it is preferable to wait to make any official engagement until after Tisha BeAv.
- i) If there is any reason that it is felt better to make an official engagement on Tisha BeAv (even with Tenaim) there is no problem and it can therefore be done.
Other things we refrain from on Tisha BeAv:
On Tisha BeAv it is forbidden to bathe, anoint our bodies, to wear leather shoes, and to have intimate relations. Furthermore Chazal also forbade regular Torah study, to the point that they even forbade the Torah study of minors.
- a) Bathing is so strictly forbidden that even putting one’s finger into water is also not allowed.
- b) One still must wash their hands in the normal ritual manner in the morning and before Tefilla as well. However one must be careful to wash only until the knuckles.
- i) After washing the mourning washing and drying one’s hands slightly one should take one’s moist hands and clean around their eyes.
- c) After using the bathroom and the like one must wash one’s hands. For hygienic in this situation allow one is permited to wash in the regular manner, even though from a purely halachik standpoint the washing would be as in the morning – until the knuckles.
- d) It is permissible to wash dirt from any part of the body. This should be done in the most minimal way possible.
- e) Using a damp washcloth (baby wipe etc.) isn’t considered washing oneself.
- 2) Anointing oneself is only forbidden when it is done for pleasure; therefore if someone is dressing a cut or putting cream onto damaged skin there is no problem.
- a) Many permit the use of deodorants as they aren’t rubbed on for any enjoyment. Since there are those who maintain that since deodorants aren’t for healing purposes they are still considered anointing (halachikly), it is preferable to put on deodorant before Tisha BeAv. If someone needs to put on deodorant on Tisha BeAv, however, it is ok to.
- 3) The prohibition of wearing shoes applies only to leather shoes. All other shoes may be worn.
- a) Recently there have been Rabbonim who have reportedly forbidden wearing crocks on Tisha BeAv and Yom-Kippur. While one may find in the Rishonim (See Rosh in Yevamos) good reason to forbid shoes of all sorts – not just leather. If one wants to go according to these Rishonim all real shoes, sandals, and slippers will be a problem other than flip-flops and house slippers. Therefore there is no reason that crocks should be assur and one may wear them.
- b) When necessary, it is permitted to wear even leather shoes:
- i) If a person needs to walk in the streets on Tisha BeAv where leather shoes are necessary, it is permitted to wear them in the street, but one should take them off when once arrived at one’s destination. It is preferable to wear shoes made of synthetic materials on Tisha BeAv since these are widely available nowadays. However if someone doesn’t own such shoes they are not obligated to buy them just because they need to walk a long distance.
- ii) If somebody needs to be amongst Goyim (and I stress non-Jews, not non-religious Jews) and it would look strange for them not to be wearing leather shoes, then it is permissible for them as well to wear leather shoes. Should they own synthetic shoes, however, it is preferable to wear those. (There is no obligation to buy such shoes).
- iii) There are those that are noheg to fill their shoes with sand that if they need to wear leather shoes at work (my father Shlita told me this in the name of Rav Gedaliah Anemer Zatzal) I do not think that this is common practice nor do I know what Rabbi Anemers source is.
- 4) We are makpid that husband and wife don’t sleep in the bed [??? IN THE SAME BED??]on Tisha BeAv.
- a) There are those who are makpid to sleep with a candle or light in the room on Tisha BeAv.
- 5) Dovid HaMelech says in Tehillim that Torah makes a person happy; therefore we don’t learn or teach Torah on Tisha BeAv.
- a) It is permissible to learn the rebuke that the Neviim gave to Klal-Yisroel such as those of Yeshayahu and Yermiyahu. It is also permissible to learn Iyov, and Eicha. Medrash Eicha and the various Agadata gemoros that deal with the Churban Beis Hamikdash are also permissible. Hilchos Tisha BeAv is also ok to learn.
- i) Traditionally children are taught the agadata Gemoros and the like dealing with the Churban.
- b) There are Achronim that dispute this minhag from different angles.
- i) If one will not waste one’s time on Tisha BeAv but will rather use it wisely for study of the sadder parts of Torah and for mourning the Churban, it is then better to refrain from ordinary Torah study.
- ii) If, on the other hand, by refraining from Torahdik activities, one will end up doing Dvarim assurim, one should then definitely opt for ordinary Torah study.
- iii) After Chatzos there are more of the Achronim who allow learning all parts of Torah.
- iv) In the recent past it has become accepted to have videotaped Shiurim shown on topics of Shmiras Halashon and the like after Chatzos. This was allowed because for many it offered a “Kosher” activity for the afternoon hours of Tisha BeAv, and the particular topic was always one that had to do with what we need to do Teshuva for in order to merit the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash. Since many Achronim allow all Torah study on Tisha BeAv, since even greater numbers of the Poskim are lenient for after Chatzos, these videos have been shown then. The aim in showing them has been to encourage Am-Yisroel to do Teshuva. Since these videos targeted many people who would otherwise not be spending their time so constructively, this was allowed by many important and prominent Rabbonim. Recently people have opposed them and instead they are screened Erev Tisha BeAv. I don’t understand the reasoning for this change.
Other activities that are forbidden on Tisha BeAv:
- 1) On Tisha BeAv until Chatzos (because at Chatzos Hashem stopped taking out His “Anger” on Am-Yisroel and instead ‘took It out’ on the stones and wood of Yerushalayim) we sit on the ground (or within 3 Tefachim of it) as mourners do.
- a) It is preferable to sit on the ground or on just a pillow. If this is too difficult, one may sit on a stool that is lower than three Tefachim (note: the whole idea of sitting on the floor is really a minhag, and as such it is not so critical, and one shouldn’t hesitate to be lenient by sitting on a stool).
- i) Sitting on a step that is less than three tefachim high is a better option than sitting on a stool as a step can definitely be halachikly considered akin to the floor.
- ii) As sitting on the floor is only a Minhag, and if someone has some sort of condition that makes it difficult for him to sit even on a low stool it is ok for that person to sit on a regular chair.
- b) There are those who are Noheg not to sleep on a bed Tisha BeAv (until after Chatzos HaYom, See section mourning the Churban pertaining to sleeping Tisha BeAv day).
- i) The common Minhag is to sleep on a bed but to sleep slightly less comfortably (by, for example, using less or no pillows).
- 2) We don’t greet people on Tisha BeAv, even by saying a brief hello.
a) When encountering a gentile one should offer the appropriate greeting but one should not then go on to enquire as to his well-being (“how are you?”etc.)
i) Should the gentile ask how you are doing, you should then inquire in turn.
b) If a less knowledgeable Jew says hello one should reply, but in the briefest and quietest manner possible.
Working and doing odds and ends on Tisha BeAv:
- 1. The Poskim say that whether one is permitted to work on Tisha BeAv is dependent upon the Mihag Hamakom. Nowadays as we live in mixed communities it is difficult to ascertain exactly the Minhag Hamokom in this regard. It would therefore appear that all work is permissible. Chazal, however, also tell us that anyone who works on Tisha BeAv will not see any good from it, and that one must try one’s best not to lose focus on the mourning of the Churban Beis Hamikdash. The logical thing to do, it would seem, would be to refrain from whatever work possible.
- a. Chazal say that everywhere a Davar Haaveid (something that will cause a loss of money) is permissible. Partial loss of salary for missing work is considered by some authorities as Davar Haaveid. Hence one would be allowed to work in order to avoid such loss. However as most of us can probably take Tisha BeAv as a vacation or sick day, and such days are not a Davar Haaveid. In such a situation one should rather make Tisha BeAv an off day.
- b. As the Ramah writes that the minhag Ashkenaz was not to work before Chatzos HaYom one should definitely try to put off work until at least after Chatzos.
- c. Working purely to earn income is assur according to all.
- 2. Preparations of foods and other such arrangements for after the fast should wait until after Chatzos HaYom.
- a. If the only way to prepare something is by starting before Chatzos, one may then do so.
Taalis and tefillin:
- 1. Taalis and Tefilin are not put on before Chatzos.
- a. We do put on the talis katan in the morning, but without the bracha. Later, when we do put on the Talis Gadol and make a bracha on it we have in mind the Talis Katan.
- i. Those who don’t put on a taalis Gadol should wait until Chatzos and then make a bracha on the talis katan. Such a person doesn’t have to move around the Tzitzis or the tzitzis garment, but it is a hiddur (enhancement of the mitzvah) to do so.
Focusing on Mourning the Churban:
The purpose of most of the Halachos and customs of Tisha BeAv is to facilitate our focusing on mourning the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. The Poskim’s instructing us to put off food preparations for after the fast until after Chatzos illustrates that even necessities need to be postponed as much as possible. The Poskim also stress that our Minhag is to stay in Shul until Chatzos saying Kinos. It definitely seems that Chazal intended for us to focus on the Churban, and to focus on the Churban alone.
The following points are Halachos and Hanhagos designed specifically to help us focus on the Churban:
- 1) The Poskim bring down that one shouldn’t go to the market place – shopping malls – or take strolls because it might make a person lose focus on the Churban, and even worse, possibly even to be light-headed, and behave in a manner inappropriate to the sadness of the day.
- a) A person definitely should refrain from shopping on Tisha BeAv.
- i) If it is for food for after the fast or the like it is preferable to put it off until after Chatzos.
- b) One must definitely refrain from watching any sort of video that doesn’t have anything to do with Tisha BeAv.
- i) While various Holocaust documentaries may be appropriate, just because a movie is based on a story that happened during the years of the Holocaust doesn’t necessarily make it sad and appropriate for Tisha BeAv.
- ii) Not just because a video is “Torahdik” (see section on Torah study above) does it mean that it is appropriate for Tisha BeAv either.
- iii) The same holds true for books: not just because a novel is based on occurrences that occurred during the Holocaust is it appropriate for Tisha BeAv. Lehavdil, not just because a book is “Torahdik” does it mean that it is appropriate for Tisha BeAv.
- c) Since many people do not work on Tisha BeAv, it is important to be especially careful that the day not become an excuse for social gatherings. We must be extra careful not to talk Dvarim assurim, as the purpose of the fast is to focus on doing Teshuva for our wrongdoings that caused the destruction. Engaging in such forbidden activities allows the destruction to continue to be.
- d) Singing songs on Tisha BeAv that are not related to the Churban, and that are not in tunes appropriate to the day is assur.
- 2) There are Chassidim and Anshei Maaseh who try to get up to daven at dawn and not to sleep the whole day of Tisha BeAv – the reason being that while one sleeps one obviously cannot focus on the Churban (HaRav Yisroel Belsky Shlita).
- a) While it may be difficult not to sleep all day Tisha BeAv it is definitely advisable not to sleep before Chatzos.
Motzai Tisha BeAv:
- 1) After the fast is out we still do not shower (bathe), do laundry, shave, take haircuts, or eat meat until after Chatzos the next day – basically the same Hanhagos as during the nine days. The difference is that after Tisha BeAv is more Kal.
- a) While this whole night and half day aveilus is more Kal than the rest of the nine days, the night following Tisha BeAv is more Chamur than the next day before Chatzos. Therefore if issues arise that would require doing one of the forbidden acts one is more likely to be allowed accordingly (and one should ask their Rov).
Rabbi Yissachar Dov Krakowski is Rov of Kehilas Torah Vechesed in Yerushalayim’s Nachlaot Neighborhood. Rabbi Krakowski also serves as a Rabbinical representative for OU Kashrus in Israel. Rabbi Krakowski has been mishamesh many Rabbanim and Poskim both In America and in Eretz-Yisroel. He comes from a family with a rich Mesorah from some of the greatest prewar European Rabbonim and Poskim. Rabbi Krakowski started his Yeshiva years in Beis Hamedrash and Mesivta of Baltimore. He then continued in Yeshivas Shaar HaTorah Grodna (Queens NY), South Fallsburg, Brisk (Yerushalayim), and currently still learns in Kollel Nachlos Elazar (Yerushalayim).