Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tisha B'Av

From sundown tonight to sundown tomorrow night, Jews around the world will be mourning in observance of Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of Av.

Historically, everything bad that has happened to the Jewish people has happened on the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av.

Here are the big five incidents:
◦During the time of Moses, Jews in the desert accepted the slanderous report of the 10 Spies, and the decree was issued forbidding them from entering the Land of Israel. (1312 BCE)

◦The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and millions more exiled. (586 BCE)

◦The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus. Some two million Jews died, and another one million were exiled. (70 CE)

◦The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. The city of Betar -- the Jews' last stand against the Romans -- was captured and liquidated. Over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered. (135 CE)

◦The Temple area and its surroundings were plowed under by the Roman general Turnus Rufus. Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan city -- renamed Aelia Capitolina -- and access was forbidden to Jews.
Other misfortunes:
1.The Spanish Inquisition culminated with the expulsion of Jews from Spain on Tisha B'Av in 1492.

2.World War One broke out on the eve of Tisha B'Av in 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia. German resentment from the war set the stage for the Holocaust.

3.On the eve of Tisha B'Av 1942, the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka.
The laws of Tisha B'Av go into effect at sundown tonight:
Upon sundown, the laws of Tisha B'Av commence -- consisting of the following expressions of mourning:

1. No eating or drinking until nightfall the following evening.
-Pregnant and nursing women are also required to fast. If one suspects it could be harmful to the baby or mother, a rabbi should be consulted.
-A woman within 30 days after birth need not fast.
-Others who are old, weak, or ill should consult with a rabbi. (MB 554:11)
-Medicine may be taken on Tisha B'Av, preferably without water.
-In case of great discomfort, the mouth may be rinsed with water. Great care should be taken not to swallow anything. (MB 567:11)

2. Other prohibitions include:
-Any bathing or washing, except for removing specific dirt -- e.g. gook in the eyes (OC 554:9, 11). (Upon rising in the morning, before prayers, or after using the bathroom, one washes only the fingers. See OC 554:10, OC 613:3, MB 554:26)
-Anointing oneself for pleasure. (Deodorant is permitted.)
-Having marital relations.
-Wearing leather shoes. (Leather belts may be worn.)(see: ?Laws of Shoes and Chairs?)
-Learning Torah, since this is a joyful activity. It is permitted to learn texts relevant to Tisha B'Av and mourning -- e.g. the Book of Lamentations, Book of Job, parts of Tractate Moed Katan, Gittin 56-58, Sanhedrin 104, Yerushalmi end of Ta'anis, and the Laws of Mourning. In-depth study should be avoided. (MB 554:4)

3. Other mourning practices include:
-Sitting no higher than a foot off the ground. After midday, one may sit on a chair. (OC 559:3)(see: "Laws of Shoes and Chairs")
-Not engaging in business or other distracting labors, unless it will result in a substantial loss. (OC 554:24)
-Refraining from greeting others or offering gifts. (OC 554:20)
-Avoiding idle chatter or leisure activities.
-Following Tisha B'Av, all normal activities may be resumed, except for the following which are delayed until midday of the 10th of Av, because the burning of the Temple continued through the 10th of Av:
-Haircuts and washing clothes. (When Tisha B'Av falls out on Thursday, these are permitted immediately following Tisha B'Av, in honor of the coming Shabbat.)
-Bathing. (When Tisha B'Av falls out on Thursday, bathing is permitted on Friday morning.)
-Eating meat and wine.
-Music and swimming.

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