Tisha B’av, the saddest day in Jewish history, the day that both Temples were destroyed, is this Saturday night, July 17, beginning at 8:27 pm (before Shabbat is over) until nightfall of Sunday, July 18, ending at 8:59 pm. This year, Erev Tisha B’av falls out on Shabbat, when all public displays of mourning are strictly prohibited. No mournful “separation meal” is conducted before the fast. Instead, shortly before sunset we partake of a sumptuous and joyous pre-fast meal. Care must be taken, however, that this meal ends before sunset on Saturday.
We sit on chairs of regular height and wear normal footwear until nightfall. Only washing, eating and drinking are prohibited starting with sunset, Saturday night.
Havdalah is made after the end of the fast on Sunday night. As it is not immediately following Shabbat, we do not use the spices – besamim, nor do we use the braided candle, however, sometime on Saturday night (ideally right before the reading of Eicha, Lamentations), kindle the havdalah candle and recite the blessing, “Borei Meorei Haesh”.
The saddest day on the Jewish calendar is the Ninth of Av, “Tisha b’Av,” the date on which both our Holy Temples were destroyed, and exile, persecution and spiritual darkness began. Among the many calamities of that day, in more recent history: England expelled their Jews on this day in 1290, as did Spain in 1492. World War One, the precursor to WWII and the holocaust, began on this day. Click here to learn more.
Besides fasting, we abstain from additional pleasures: washing, applying lotions or creams, wearing leather footwear, and marital relations. Until midday, we sit on the floor or on low stools. We also abstain from studying Torah—besides those parts that discuss the destruction of the Temple.
On the eve of Tisha b’Av, Saturday night after nightfall, we gather in the synagogue to read the Book of Lamentations. We can also read this at home. Tallit and tefillin are not worn during the morning prayers. After the morning prayers we recite Kinot (elegies). We don the tallit and tefillin for the afternoon prayers.
It is a tradition, however, that Tisha b’Av is also the birthday of our Redeemer. This symbolizes the idea that from the ashes of the destroyed temple will rise an incomparably magnificent edifice; exile will give birth to redemption. Thus Tisha b’Av is also a day of anticipation and hope, for “One who mourns Jerusalem will merit seeing her happiness.”