What is Tisha Be-Av?
Tisha be-Av is a fast day that falls on the ninth ("tisha" in Hebrew) of the Jewish month of Av. It usually falls in the month of August. Tisha Be-Av is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. It is a day of mourning for all the calamities that have befallen the Jewish people. Many of these tragedies occurred on the ninth of Av.
Tisha Be-Av is the culmination of a three-week mourning period that begins on the seventeenth day of the Jewish month of Tammuz. On the seventeenth of Tammuz the walls of Jerusalem were breached before the destruction of the First Temple. On the ninth of Av the first and second Temples were destroyed, by the Babylonians and Romans respectively. In the three-week mourning period weddings are prohibited, as is cutting one's hair. For the last nine days of the three-weeks it is customary to not eat meat, drink wine or wear new clothing.
What does Tisha Be-Av commemorate?
Five national calamities occurred on Tisha Be-Av:
- At the time of Moses, the Jewish people accepted the spies' slanderous report of the Land of Israel and were therefore barred from entering the holy land.
- The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. 100,000 Jews were murdered and millions exiled.
- The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Two million Jews were slaughtered and one million exiled.
- The Bar Kochba Revolt was crushed by the Romans. The city Beitar was the last city that the Jews had a stand in and it was captured and destroyed. More than 100,000 Jews were killed.
- The Temple and its surroundings were destroyed. Jerusalem became a pagan city and Jews were forbidden from entering.
Other tragedies that occurred on the ninth of Av throughout Jewish history are as follows;
- The Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.
- World War One broke out on the eve of Tisha Be-Av in 1914, setting the stage for the Holocaust.
- On the eve of Tisha Be-Av in the year 1942 Jews were deported en-masse from the Warsaw Ghetto.
What is forbidden on Tisha Be-Av?
- Eating and drinking for those over the age of 12/13 (girls/boys respectively.)
- Bathing or washing.
- Application of creams and lotions.
- Wearing of leather shoes.
- Marital relations.
- Torah study apart from parts relating to the Temples' destruction.
- Idle conversation.