Fast of 10th of Teves

10_Teves

Fast Begins Tomorrow, Thursday, January 1, 2015, 6:11 AM / Shacharis 8:00 AM / Mincha 5:00 PM / Fast Ends 6:12 PM


The Many Facets of Asarah B’Teves: Rabbi Yehuda Spitz

Although to many the only notable aspect of the upcoming fast of Asarah B’Teves (the 10th of Teves) is that it is by far the shortest fast day in the Jewish calendar for anyone in the Northern Hemisphere (my heartfelt sympathies to the South Americans, So’Africans, Aussies, and Kiwis), nonetheless, the Fast of Asarah B’Teves is quite unique. For example, unique to this fast, is that it is the only one that we do actually observe as on a Friday[1]. Even Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the actual destructions of our Batei HaMikdash, gets pushed off. Yet, obviously, to maintain this distinction of being the only Fast Day that we actually do observe and fast on Friday, there must be much more to the Fast of Asarah B’Teves than meets the eye. In turns out that Asarah B’Teves has several exceptional characteristics that are not found in any other fast day.

Why This Fast?
The reason given for fasting on Asarah B’Teves is that it is the day that the wicked Babylonian king Nevuchadnetzar started his siege of Yerushalayim[2], foreshadowing the beginning of the end of the first Beis Hamikdash, which culminated with its destruction on Tisha B’Av several years later. Therefore, Chazal declared it a public fast, one of four public fast days that memorialize different aspects of the catastrophes and national tragedies associated with the destruction of both Batei HaMikdash[3].

Three-Day Fast?
According to the special Selichos prayers said on the fast[4], a unique aspect of Asarah B’Teves is that we are actually fasting for two other days of tragedy as well; the 8th and 9th of Teves. In fact, both the Tur and Shulchan Aruch assert that if possible one should try to fast on all three days[5]. Nevertheless, of the three, only Asarah B’Teves was actually mandated as a public fast day[6].

The 8th of Teves
On the 8th of Teves, King Ptolemy II (285 – 246 B.C.E.) forced 72 sages separately to translate the Torah into Greek (the Septuagint). Although miracles guided their work and all of the sages made the same slight but necessary amendments, nevertheless this work is described as “darkness descending on the world for three days”, as it was now possible for the uneducated to possess a superficial, and frequently flawed, understanding of the Torah, as well as providing the masses with a mistaken interpretation of true morality[7].

The 9th of Teves
Although several decisors write that the reason for fasting on the 9th of Teves is unknown[8], nonetheless many sources, including the Kol Bo and the Selichos recited on Asarah B’Teves, as well as many later authorities, explain that this is the day on which Ezra HaSofer (as well as possibly his partner Nechemiah) died. Ezra, theGadol HaDor at the beginning of the time of the Second Beis HaMikdash, had a tremendous impact upon the nascent returning Jewish community of Eretz Yisrael. He drastically improved the spiritual state of the Jewish people and established many halachic takanos, many of which still apply today[9]. With his passing, the community started sliding from the great spiritual heights Ezra had led them to. Additionally, since Ezra was the last of the prophets, his passing signified the end of prophecy.

Other sources attribute fasting on this day to the passing of other specific Tzaddikim on this day, including Shimon HaKalphus and Rav Yosef HaNaggid, or the birth of ‘Oso HaIsh’, the founder of Christianity, in whose name myriads of Jews over the millennia were r”l murdered (see extensive footnote 9). The Sefer HaToda’ah[10]posits that it’s possible that “darkness descended on the world for three days” alludes to the triple woes of these three days: the 8th, 9th, and 10th of Teves.

Fasting on Friday?
Another exclusive characteristic of Asarah B’Teves is that, as mentioned previously, it is the only fast that can fall out on a Friday. This is fairly interesting as there is a whole debate in the Gemara about how to conduct fasts on a Friday, when we also must take kavod Shabbos into account[11], implying that it is a common occurrence. However, according to our calendar, a Friday fast is only applicable with AsarahB’Teves, and it happens quite infrequently. The last few times Asarah B’Teves fell out on a Friday were in 1996, 2001, 2010, and last year, 2013. It is next expected to occur in 2020 (5781). After that, 2023 (5784), 2025 (5785), 2034 (5795), and 2037 (5798).

Halachos of a Friday Fast
The halachos of a Friday fast generally parallel those of a regular fast day[12]. In fact, even though there is some debate in the Rishonim as to the Gemara’s intent that ‘Halacha – Mesaneh U’Mashlim – a Friday fast should be completed’ whether or not one may be mekabel Shabbos early and thereby end the fast before nightfall[13]. Nonetheless, the halacha follows the Shulchan Aruch and Rema that since Asarah B’Teves is a public fast (Taanis Tzibbur) and not a Taanis Yachid, one must fast the whole day and complete it at nightfall (Tzeis HaKochavim) before making Kiddush[14].

There are those who maintain it is preferable to daven Maariv earlier than usual on such a Friday night, to enable making Kiddush, and breaking the fast, exactly at Tzeis HaKochavim[15].

A Shabbos Fast?!
The third and possibly most important attribute of Asarah B’Teves is that according to the AbuDraham, if Asarah B’Teves would potentially fall out on Shabbos, we would all actually be required to fast on Shabbos![16] (Notwithstanding that, with our calendar, this is an impossibility[17].) He cites proof to this from the words of Yechezkel referring to Asarah B’Teves (Ch. 24, verse 2) that the siege transpired “B’Etzem HaYom HaZeh”, implying that the fast must always be observed on that exact day, no matter the conflicting occurrence. This would also explain why it is observed on Friday, as opposed to any other fast.

Yet, the AbuDraham’s statement is astounding, as the only fast that halachically takes precedence over Shabbos is Yom Kippur, the only biblically mandated fast. How can one of the rabbinic minor fasts push off the biblical Shabbos? Additionally,Asarah B’Teves commemorates merely the start of the siege, and not any actual destruction. How can it be considered a more important fast than Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction and loss of both of our Batei HaMikdash? In fact, the Beis Yosef questions this declaration of the AbuDraham, stating that he “does not know how the AbuDraham could know” such a ruling. As an aside, this does not seem to be the actual halacha, as other Rishonim, including Rashi and the Rambam, both explicitly state that if Asarah B’Teves falls out on Shabbos it gets pushed off.

Commencement Is Catastrophic
Several authorities, including Rav Yonason Eibeschutz and the Bnei Yissaschar[18], understand the AbuDraham’s enigmatic statement as similar to the famous Gemara in Taanis (29a) regarding Tisha B’Av. It seems that historically the Beis HaMikdash only started to burn toward the end of the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av) and actually burned down on the 10th. Yet, Chazal established the fast on the 9th, since Aschalta D’Paranusah Adifa, meaning that the beginning of a tragedy is considered the worst part. Likewise, they maintain that since the siege on Asarah B’Teves was the commencement of the long chain of tragedies that ended with the Beis HaMikdash in ruins and the Jewish people in exile, its true status belies the common perception of it as a minor fast, and potentially has the ability to push off Shabbos. Indeed, the Midrash Tanchuma[19] teaches that it was already fitting for the BaisHaMikdash to actually be destroyed on AsaraB’Teves, but Hashem, in His incredible mercy, pushed the destruction off to the summertime, so that we would not have to be exiled in the cold. Hence, Asarah B’Teves’s role as the ‘beginning of the end’ underlies the severity of this fast day.

The famed Chasam Sofer[20] takes this a step further. He wrote that the reason Chazal established a fast for the siege on Asarah B’Teves, as opposed to every other time Yerushalayim was under siege over the millennia, is that on that day in the Heavenly Courtroom it was decided that the Bais HaMikdash was to be destroyed a few years hence. There is a well-known Talmudic dictum that any generation in which the Beis HaMikdash has not been rebuilt, is as if it has been destroyed again[21]. Therefore, he explains, every Asarah B’Teves the Heavenly Court convenes and decrees a new Churban. He adds though that, conversely, a proper fast onAsarah B’Teves has the potential to avert future Churbanos. We are not fasting exclusively due to past calamities, but rather, similar to a Taanis Chalom, we fast for a dream, to help prevent a tragedy from occurring. [He even refers to such a fast as an oneg, a delight.] That is why the fast of Asarah B’Teves, even though it is considered a minor fast, nonetheless has the potential to possibly override Shabbos. These explanations would also certainly elucidate why we would fast on a Friday for Asarah B’Teves.

The Rambam famously exhorts us to remember the real meaning underlying a fast day. It’s not just a day when we miss our morning coffee! The purpose of fasting is to focus on the spiritual side of the day and use it as a catalyst for inspiration towards Teshuva[22]. In this merit may the words of the Navi Zechariah – “The Fast of the Fourth (month, 17th of Tamuz), the Fast of the Fifth (month, Tisha B’Av), the Fast of the Seventh (month, Tzom Gedalyah), and the Fast of the Tenth (month,Asarah B’Teves), shall be (changed over) for celebration and joy for the household of Yehuda” – be fulfilled speedily and in our days.


[1] See AbuDraham (Hilchos Taanis), Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 550, 4), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 4), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. end 2), and Mishna Berura (ad loc. 10).
[2] Melachim II (Ch. 25, verse 1), Yirmiyahu (Ch. 52, verse 4), Yechezkel (Ch. 24, verses 1 & 2).
[3] See Zecharia (Ch. 8, verse 19), Gemara Rosh Hashana 18b, Rambam (HilchosTaaniyos Ch. 5, 1- 5) and Tur & Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 549 & 550).
[4] See the Selicha for Asarah B’Teves that starts with the word Ezkerah.
[5] Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 580).
[6] Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 549 & 550).
[7] As told at length in Gemara Megillah 9a. For a slightly different version see Maseches Sofrim (Ch. 1, 7 – 8). This quote is found in Megillas Taanis (Ch. 13); and cited by the Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 580). See Sefer HaToda’ah (vol. 1, Ch. 8, Chodesh Teves, par. Yom Kasheh) at length.
[8] See Tur & Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 580). However, many poskim, including the Ba’er HaGolah (ad loc. 4), Magen Avraham (ad loc. 6), Taz (ad loc. 1; who concludes ‘tzarich iyun rav’ on the Tur and Shulchan Aruch for not knowing that EzraHaSofer died on that day), Elyah Rabba (ad loc. 5), Pri Megadim (ad loc. MishbetzosZahav 1), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 6), Mishna Berurah (ad loc. 13), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 20), all cite the Kol Bo (63), BeHa”G (Hilchos Tisha B’Av V’Taanis), or the Selichos of Asarah B’Teves (ibid.) that the tzara on that day is that Ezra HaSofer died. TheAruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 3) diplomatically states that originally they did not know which tragedy occurred on that day to mandate fasting, and afterwards it was revealed that it was due to Ezra HaSofer’s passing on that day. Rav Yonason Eibeschutz (Ya’aros Dvash vol. 2, 192 – 193) gives an interesting variation on this theme. He maintains that since Ezra’s role in Klal Yisrael in his time was akin to Moshe Rabbeinu’s, Chazal wanted to withhold publication of the day of his passing, similar to the Torah stating that “no one knows of Moshe’s burial place” (Devarim,V’Zos HaBracha Ch. 34, verse 6). However, the Chida (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chaim 580) points out that the statement in Megillas Taanis (and later cited by the BeHa”G) that ‘lo kasvu Rabboseinu al mah hu’ seems to be referring to a separate occurrence than its next listing, that Ezra HaSofer died on that day, and that they are not one and the same. The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe, Parshas Vayigash, Drush for 8 Teves s.v.kasav BeHa”G) answers that Ezra was similar to Moshe Rabbeinu, and drastically improved the spiritual state of the Jewish people, and yet, even after he died, KlalYisrael felt satisfied and blessed simply to have been led by him when he was alive, and did not see any reason to fast on the day he died. Yet, when the Torah was later translated into Greek, enabling the “Tzaraas of the Minim”, only then did they realize the import of Ezra’s passing and established it as a fast day. Yet, previously, they did not know why to fast on the 9th of Teves. Rav Baruch Teumim – Frankel (author of the Imrei Baruch, in his glosses to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 580) cites several other sources opining different tzaddikim’s passings on the 9th of Teves as the reason for fasting, including Shimon HaKalphus, ‘who saved Klal Yisrael during the days of the Pritzim’, and to whom ‘Nishmas’ is attributed . [Known as Patrus, it has been surmised that he was a Jewish pope, placed by Chazal to infiltrate the early Christians, to ensure that Christianity became a separate religion (see Otzar HaMedrashim pg. 557). Some say he was ‘Ben Patora’ mentioned in Gemara Bava Metzia 62b. Ostensibly he was not the same Shimon HaKalphus (or Kippa) mentioned derisively by several Rishonim, including the Machzor Vitry (Pesach 66), and Rav Yehuda HaChassid (Sefer Chassidim 191), as ‘Shimon Petter Chamor’], and Rav Yosef HaLevi, son of Rav Shmuel HaNaggid, who was assassinated on the 9th ofTeves in 1066, thus ending a Golden Age for Jewry in Spain. He quotes the Raavad’s Sefer HaKabbalah that ‘when Rabboseinu HaKadmonim wrote Megillas Taanis and established a fast on the 9th of Teves, they themselves didn’t know the reason. Later on, after Rav Yosef HaNaggid was assassinated we knew that they foresaw this tragedy with Ruach HaKodesh’. An additional reason for fasting on this day is cited by the Rema in his commentary to Megillas Esther (Mechir Yayin, Ch. 2, 16) that we fast on the 9th of Teves as Esther was forcibly taken to Achashveirosh’s palace in the month of Teves (possibly on this day). Interestingly, some posit (as heard in the name of Rav Moshe Shapiro shlit”a; also found in the Davar B’Ito calendar, 9 Teves; the origin of this seems to be the 12th century Sefer HaAvor, by R’ Avraham bar Chiya) that the real reason for fasting is that the 9th of Teves is the true birthday of ‘Oso HaIsh’, in whose name myriads of Jews over the millennia were r”l murdered.
[9] As found throughout Shas – see for example Bava Kama (82a) and Kesuvos (3a).
[10] Sefer HaToda’ah (vol. 1, Ch. 8, Chodesh Teves, end par. Yom Kasheh).
[11] Gemara Eiruvin 41a.
[12] However, even those who advise not to bathe on a regular fast day, nevertheless allow one to do so on a Friday fast, L’Kavod Shabbos, with hot water as usual [see Bach (Orach Chaim 550, 3; although cited by both the Ba’er Heitiv and Mishnah Berurah as the source for this rule. Nevertheless, this author has been unable to locate where exactly the Bach states an explicit Erev Shabbos exception for bathing), Elya Rabba (ad loc. 2), Ba’er Hei tiv (ad loc. 3), Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. end 6), and Shu”t Siach Yitzchak (247)].
[13] Although the Gemara (Eruvin 41a; also in Midrash Tanchuma, Bereishis 2) concludes ‘Halacha – Mesaneh U’Mashlim’, even so there are many Rishonim (most notably Tosafos ad loc. 41b s.v. v’hilchasa) who understand that to mean that onemay conclude his Erev Shabbos fast at Tzeis HaKochavim, even though it means he will enter Shabbos famished (a situation that is normally disfavored), and not that one must conclude his fast on Friday night at Tzeis HaKochavim. A further complication is that this also may depend on whether one is fasting for personal reasons (Taanis Yachid) or an obligatory public fast (Taanis Tzibbur). The Rema (Orach Chaim 249, 4) concludes that for a Taanis Yachid one may rely upon the lenient opinions and end his fast after he accepted Shabbos, prior to Tzeis HaKochavim (especially if he made such a stipulation before commencing his fast), yet for a Taanis Tzibbur, he rules that we follow the Rishonim who mandate strict interpretation of the Gemara, and we must fast until actual nightfall on Friday night. It is debatable whether the Shulchan Aruch is actually fully agreeing with this approach or not. See explanation of the Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 21 and Biur Halacha s.v. v’im) at length. This has since become normative halacha. See next footnote.
[14] See Shulchan Aruch and Rema (Orach Chaim 249, 4), based on the Rosh (TaanisCh. 2, 4) and Maharil (Shu”t 33); Magen Avraham (ad loc. 8), Bach (ad loc. end 6),Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 7), Elya Rabba (ad loc. 10), Korban Nesanel (Taanis, end Ch. 2, 60), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (ad loc. 12), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (121, 6), Ben Ish Chai(Year 2, Parshas Lech Lecha 23), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 10), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 21 and Biur Hal acha s.v. v’im), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 29 & 31), Shu”t Yabea Omer(vol. 6, Orach Chaim 31), Shu”t Yechaveh Daas (vol. 1, 80), Netei Gavriel (HilchosChanuka, Shu”t 14), Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim. 249, 7 & 559, 25), and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (121, 5). The Netei Gavriel adds that B’shaas Hadchak and l’tzorech gadol one may be mekabel Shabbos early and rely on the lenient opinions, as long it is after nightfall according to several opinions (meaning, a much earlier zeman of Tzeis HaKochavim than the faster would usually observe).
[15] See Shulchan HaTahor (Orach Chaim 249, 13) who writes that usually it is assurto complete a Friday fast until Tzeis HaKochavim, even an obligatory fast, as it is an affront to Kedushas Shabbos; rather, he maintains that one should be mekabelShabbos early and have his seudah before nightfall. Yet, in his explanations (Zer Zahav ad loc. 4) he maintains that regarding Asarah B’Teves on Friday, since we are beholden to follow the ruling ot the Rema, one should still be mekabel Shabbos early, and daven earlier than usual, to enable us to end the fast with making Kiddush at the exact zeman of Tzeis HaKochavim.
[16] AbuDraham (Hilchos Taanis), cited with some skepticism by the Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim end 550). Rashi (Megillah 5a s.v aval) and the Rambam (HilchosTaaniyos Ch. 5, 5) both explicitly state that if Asarah B’Teves falls out on Shabbosthen it gets pushed off. Similarly, the Ibn Ezra, in his famous Shabbos Zemer ‘Ki Eshmera Shabbos’ explicitly states that Yom Kippur is the only fast that can overrideShabbos. This is how the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 550, 3), as well as laterposkim (see, for example, Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chaim 549, end 2), rules as well. However, there are many who do defend the AbuDraham’s statement based on the verse “B’Etzem HaYom HaZeh”. The Minchas Chinuch (Parshas Emor, Mitzva 301, 7), explaining why nowadays we do not observe fast days for two days (as opposed to other Yomim Tovim, due to the safek yom). He asserts that the Neviim established fast days in specific months, but did not set the actual day it must be observed, hence the ambiguity in the Gemara which days to observe them. Since they were never established as being mandated on one specific day, they are unaffected by the safek yom, and nowadays only one day must be observed. A similar assessment regarding the establishment of fast days was actually expressed by several Rishonim, including the Ritva (Rosh Hashana 18b s.v. v’ha) and Tashbatz (Shu”t vol. 2, 271). Rav Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk (Chiddushei HaGra”ch V’HaGri”z al Shas, ‘Stencils’, pg. 27, 44) takes this a step further to explain the AbuDraham’s statement (although quite curiously, he inexplicably attributes this statement to the BeHa”G, who in fact makes no mention of this and does not mention the AbuDraham). He asserts thatAsarah B’Teves is the exception to this rule of the Neviim’s ambiguity of exact day, since it is stated about it that it must be observed “B’Etzem HaYom HaZeh”, and therefore would be fasted upon even if it fell on Shabbos. Similarly, the Ohr Somayach (Hilchos Taaniyos Ch. 5, 6 s.v. v’hinei, in the brackets) defends theAbuDraham’s statement, based on a diyuk in the Gemara’s (Eruvin ibid.) choice of question about a Taanis Yachid on Friday, with no mention of a Taanis Tzibur. He posits that the reason the Gemara did not cite such a case is that Asarah B’Teves is the only Taanis Tzibur that can fall out on Friday, and if it can override Shabbos due to “B’Etzem HaYom HaZeh”, then certainly one would be required to fast the whole Friday for it! For more on this fascinating topic see Minchas Asher (Moadim vol. 2,Tzomos, 43).
[17] According to our calendar Asarah B’Teves cannot fall out on Shabbos. The AbuDraham (Hilchos Taanis) himself mentions this, as does the Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 550, 4 & 5), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 3), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 2), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 8). Everyone can easily make this calculation themselves. See Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 128, 2) regarding which days various RosheiChodesh can fall out on. For the month of Teves, Rosh Chodesh cannot fall out on a Thursday. That means Asarah B’Teves, ten days later, cannot fall out on Shabbos!
[18] Ya’aros Dvash (Vol. 1, Drush 2 for 9 Teves, 32 – 33; see also vol. 2, 191 – 193 s.v.v’hinei yadua), Bnei Yisaschar (Maamrei Chodesh Kislev / Teves 14, 1), and Shu”t Shoel U’Meishiv (Mahadura Kama vol. 3, 179). The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe,Parshas Vayigash pg. 40b s.v. vad”z) also cites this reason and explains that it is only at the end of a tragedy when salvation has a chance to sprout. We see this from the famous Gemara at the end of Makkos (24a – b) with Rabbi Akiva, who laughed when he saw foxes wandering through the ruins of the Beis HaMikdash. Only when a tragedy is complete can there be a glimmer of hope for the future redemption. See also sefer Siach Yitzchak (pg. 293) and R’ Moshe Chaim Leitner’s sefer Tzom Ha’Asiriat length. Rav Yonason Eibeschutz adds that according to his calculations, Nevuchadnetzar’s actual siege on that first Asarah B’Teves commenced on Shabbos; meaning that that Asarah B’Teves that Yechezkel wrote “B’Etzem HaYom HaZeh” about was actually Shabbos. The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe, Parshas Vayechi, Drushfor 8 Teves 5599, s.v. ksiv) agrees with this assessment and offers a variation, that the reason Nevuchadnetzar was successful in his conquest of Yerushalayim, as opposed to Sancheirev, was due to lack of Shemiras Shabbos among its inhabitants!
[19] Midrash Tanchuma (Tazria 9). However, see Midrash Tanchuma (Bereishis 2 & 3), who actually takes a very strong stance against fasting on Shabbos, as ‘Kavod Shabbos is adif than one thousand fasts’!
[20] Toras Moshe (vol. 2, Parshas Vayikra, Drush for 7 Adar, pg. 9b – 10a, s.v. kasuv).
[21] Yerushalmi Yoma (Ch. 1, 1, 6a).
[22] Rambam (Hilchos Taaniyos Ch. 5, 1); see also Mishnah Berurah (549, 1).

Fasting on Friday

10_Teves

For Dallas, Texas: Fast begins 6:02 AM and ends with Kiddush Friday night.


Fasting on Friday by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz

An interesting calendarical anomaly is set to happen this week. The appearance of which is quite sporadic and actually quite unique on the Jewish Calendar. I am referring to the upcoming Fast of Asarah B’Teves, which this year falls out on a Friday. Unique to this fast is that it is the only one that we do actually observe as a fast on a Friday[1]. Even Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the actual destructions of our Batei HaMikdash, gets pushed off. Yet, this Friday, for a fast best known for being the year’s shortest (for everyone in the Northern Hemisphere), all of Klal Yisrael will fast.

Why This Fast?
The reason given for fasting on Asarah B’Teves is that it is the day that the wicked Babylonian king, Nevuchadnetzar, commenced his siege of Yerushalayim[2], foreshadowing the beginning of the end of the first Beis Hamikdash, which culminated with its destruction on Tisha B’Av several years later. Therefore, Chazal declared it a public fast, one of four public fast days that memorialize different aspects of the catastrophes and national tragedies associated with the destruction of both Batei HaMikdash[3].

What makes Asarah B’Teves’s Friday observance even more interesting is that there is a whole debate in the Gemara about how to conduct fasts on a Friday, when we also must take kavod Shabbos into account[4], implying that it is a common occurrence. However, according to our calendar, a Friday Fast is only applicable with Asarah B’Teves, and it happens quite infrequently. The last few times Asarah B’Teves fell out on a Friday were in 1996, 2001, and 2010. The next expected occurrence is in 2020.

Yet, obviously, to maintain this distinction of being the only Fast Day that we actually do observe on a Friday, there must be much more to the Fast of Asarah B’Teves than meets the eye. In turns out that Asarah B’Teves has several exceptional characteristics that are not found in any other fast day.

A Shabbos Fast?!
Possibly, the most important attribute of Asarah B’Teves is that, according to the AbuDraham, if Asarah B’Teves would potentially fall out on Shabbos, we would all actually be required to fast on Shabbos![5] (Notwithstanding that with our calendar this is an impossibility[6].) He cites proof to this from the words of Yechezkel referring to Asarah B’Teves (Ch. 24, verse 2) that the siege transpired “B’etzem HaYom HaZeh”, implying that the fast must always be observed on that exact day, no matter the conflicting occurrence. This would also explain why it observed on Friday, as opposed to any other fast.

Yet, the AbuDraham’s statement is astounding, as the only fast that halachicallytakes precedence over Shabbos is Yom Kippur, the only Biblically mandated fast. How can one of the Rabbinic minor fasts push off the Biblical Shabbos? Additionally, Asarah B’Teves commemorates merely the start of the siege on the Beis HaMikdash, and not any actual destruction. How can it be considered a more important fast than Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction and loss of both of our Batei HaMikdash? In fact, the Beis Yosef questions this declaration of the AbuDraham, stating that he “does not know how the AbuDraham could know” such a ruling. As an aside, this does not seem to be the actual halacha, as other Rishonim, including Rashi and the Rambam both explicitly state that if Asarah B’Teves falls out on Shabbos, then it gets pushed off.

Commencement Is Catastrophic
Several authorities, including Rav Yonason Eibeschutz and the Bnei Yissaschar[7], understand the AbuDraham’s enigmatic statement as similar to the famous Gemara in Taanis (29a) regarding Tisha B’Av. It seems that historically the Beis HaMikdash only started to burn toward the end of the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av) and actually burned down on the 10th. Yet, Chazal established the fast on the 9th, since Aschalta D’Paranusah Adifa, meaning that the beginning of a tragedy is considered the worst part. Likewise, they maintain that, since the siege on Asarah B’Teves was the commencement of the long chain of tragedies that ended with the Beis HaMikdash in ruins and the Jewish people in exile, its true status belies the common perception of it as a minor fast, and potentially has the ability to push off Shabbos.

The famed Chasam Sofer[8] takes this a step further. He wrote that the reason Chazal established a fast for the siege on Asarah B’Teves, as opposed to every other time Yerushalayim was under siege over the millennia, is that on that day in the Heavenly courtroom it was decided that the Beis HaMikdash was to be destroyed a few years hence. There is a well-known Talmudic dictum that any generation in which the Beis HaMikdash has not been rebuilt is as if it has been destroyed again[9]. Therefore, he explains, every Asarah B’Teves the Heavenly court convenes and decrees a new Churban. That is why the fast of Asarah B’Teves, even though it is considered a minor fast, nonetheless has the potential to possibly override Shabbos. These explanations would also certainly explain why we would fast on a Friday for Asarah B’Teves.

Three Day Fast?
According to the special Selichos prayers said on the fast[10], an additional unique aspect of Asarah B’Teves is that we are actually fasting for two other days of tragedy as well; the 8th and 9th of Teves. In fact, both the Tur and Shulchan Aruch assert that if possible one should try to fast on all three days[11]. Nevertheless, of the three, only Asarah B’Teves was actually mandated as a public fast day[12].

The 8th of Teves
On the 8th of Teves, King Ptolemy II (285 – 246 B.C.E.) demanded and forced 72 sages separately to translate the Torah into Greek (the Septuagint). Although miracles guided their work and all of the sages made the same slight, but necessary amendments, nevertheless this work is described as “darkness descending on the world for three days”, as it was now possible for the uneducated to possess a superficial, and frequently flawed, understanding of the Torah, as well as providing the masses with a mistaken interpretation of true morality[13].

The 9th of Teves
Although several decisors write that the reason for fasting on the 9th of Teves is unknown[14], nonetheless many sources, including the Kol Bo and the Selichos recited on Asarah B’Teves, as well as many later authorities, explain that this is the day that Ezra HaSofer (as well as possibly his partner Nechemiah) died. Ezra, the Gadol HaDor at the beginning of the time of the Second Beis HaMikdash, had a tremendous impact upon the nascent returning Jewish community of Eretz Yisrael. He drastically improved the spiritual state of the Jewish people and established manyhalachic takanos, many of which still apply today[15]. With his passing, the community started sliding from the great spiritual heights Ezra had led them. Additionally, since Ezra was the last of the prophets, his passing signified the end of prophecy.

Other sources attribute fasting on this day due to the passing of other specific Tzaddikim or the birth of a certain Rasha (see extensive footnote 14). The Sefer HaToda’ah[16] posits that it’s possible that “darkness descended on the world for three days” alludes to the triple woes of these three days: the 8th, 9th, and 10th of Teves.

Halachos of a Friday Fast
The halachos of a Friday fast generally parallel those of a regular fast day. In fact, even though there is some debate in the Rishonim as to the Gemara’s intent that ‘Halacha – Mesaneh U’Mashlim – a Friday fast should be completed’ whether one may be mekabel Shabbos early and thereby end the fast before nightfall[17], nonetheless, the halacha follows the Shulchan Aruch and Rema that since Asarah B’Teves is a public fast (taanis tzibbur) and not a taanis yachid, one must fast the whole day and complete it at nightfall (Tzeis HaKochavim) before making Kiddush[18].

There are those who maintain it is preferable to daven Maariv earlier than usual this Friday Night to enable us to make Kiddush, and break our fasts, exactly at Tzeis HaKochavim[19].

The Rambam famously exhorts us to remember the real meaning underlying a fast day. It’s not just a day when we miss our morning coffee! The purpose of fasting is to focus on the spiritual side of the day and use it as catalyst for inspiration towardsTeshuva[20]. In this merit may the words of the Navi Zechariah, that the “Fast of the Fourth (month, 17th of Tamuz), the Fast of the Fifth (month, Tisha B’Av), the Fast of the Seventh (month, Tzom Gedalyah), and the Fast of the Tenth (month, Asarah B’Teves), shall be (changed over) for celebration and joy for the household of Yehuda”[21], be fulfilled speedily and in our days.

 


[1]See AbuDraham (Hilchos Taanis), Magen Avraham (550, 4), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. end 2), and Mishna Berura (ad loc. 10).

[2]Melachim II (Ch.25, 1), Yirmiyahu (Ch.52, 4), Yechezkel (Ch.24, 1 & 2).

[3]See Zecharia (Ch.8, 19), Gemara Rosh Hashana (18b), Rambam (Hilchos Taanis Ch.5, 1- 5) and Tur & Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 549 & 550).

[4]Gemara Eiruvin 41a.

[5]AbuDraham (Hilchos Taanis), cited with some skeptism by the Beis Yosef (O.C. end 550). Rashi (Megillah 5a s.v aval) and Rambam (Hilchos Taanis Ch. 5, 5).

[6]According to our calendar Asarah B’Teves cannot fall out on Shabbos. The AbuDraham (Hilchos Taanis) himself mentions this, as does the Magen Avraham (O.C. 550, 4 & 5). Everyone can easily make this calculation themselves. See Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 128, 2) regarding which days various Roshei Chodosh can fall out on. For the month of Teves, Rosh Chodesh cannot fall out on a Thursday. That means Asarah B’Teves, ten days later, cannot fall out on Shabbos!

[7]Ya’aros Dvash (Vol. 1, Drush 2 for 9 Teves, 32 – 33; see also vol. 2, 191 – 193 s.v.v’hinei yadua), Bnei Yisaschar (Maamrei Chodesh Kislev/ Teves 14, 1), and Shu”t Shoel U’meishiv (vol. 3, 179). The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe, Parshas Vayigash pg. 40b s.v. vad”z) also cites this reason and explains that it is only at the end of a tragedy when salvation has a chance to sprout. We see this from the famous Gemara at the end of Makkos (24a – b) with Rabbi Akiva, who laughed when he saw foxes wandering through the ruins of the Beis HaMikdash. Only when a tragedy is complete can there be a glimmer of hope for the future redemption. See also seferSiach Yitzchak (pg. 293) and R’ Moshe Chaim Leitner’s sefer Tzom Ha’Asiri at length.

[8]Toras Moshe (vol. 2, Parshas Vayikra, Drush for 7 Adar, pg. 9b – 10a, s.v. kasuv).

[9]Yerushalmi Yoma (Ch.1, 1, 6a).

[10]See the Selicha for Asarah B’Teves that starts with the word Ezkerah.

[11]Tur and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 580).

[12]Tur and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 549 & 550).

[13]As told at length in Gemara Megillah 9a. For a slightly different version see Maseches Sofrim (Ch. 1, 7 – 8). This quote is found in Megillas Taanis (Ch.13); and cited by the Tur and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 580). See Sefer HaToda’ah (vol. 1, Ch.8, Chodesh Teves, par. Yom Kasheh) at length.

[14]See Tur & Shulchan Aruch O.C. 580. However, many poskim, including the Ba’er HaGolah (ad loc. 4), Magen Avraham (ad loc. 6), Taz (ad loc. 1; who concludes ‘tzarich iyun rav’ on the Tur and Shulchan Aruch for not knowing that Ezra HaSofer died on that day), Elyah Rabba (ad loc. 5), Pri Megadim (ad loc. M.Z. 1), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 6), Mishna Berurah (ad loc. 13), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 20), all cite the Kol Bo (63), BeHa”G (Hilchos Tisha B’Av V’Taanis), or the Selichos of Asarah B’Teves (ibid.) that thetzara on that day is that Ezra HaSofer died. The Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 3) diplomatically states that originally they did not know which tragedy occurred on that day to mandate fasting, and afterwards it was revealed that it was due to Ezra HaSofer’s passing on that day. Rav Yonason Eibeschutz (Ya’aros Dvash vol. 2, 192 – 193) gives an interesting variation on this theme. He maintains that since Ezra’s role in Klal Yisrael in his time was akin to Moshe Rabbeinu’s, Chazal wanted to withhold publication of the day of his passing, similar to the Torah stating that “no one knows of Moshe’s burial place” (Devarim, V’Zos HaBracha Ch. 34, 6). However, the Chida (Birkei Yosef O.C. 580) points out that the statement in Megillas Taanis (and later cited by the BeHa”G) that ‘lo kasvu Rabboseinu al mah hu’ seems to be referring to a separate occurrence than its next listing, that Ezra HaSofer died on that day, and that they are not one and the same. Rav Baruch Teumim – Frankel (author of the Imrei Baruch, in his glosses to Shulchan Aruch O.C. 580) cites several other sources opining different tzaddikim’s passing on the 9th of Teves as reason for fasting, including Shimon HaKalphus, ‘who saved Klal Yisrael during the days of the Pritzim’, and whom ‘Nishmas’ is attributed to (it has been surmised that he was a Jewish pope, placed by Chazal to infiltrate the early Christians, to ensure that Christianity became a separate religion), and Rav Yosef HaLevi, son of Rav Shmuel HaNaggid, who was assassinated on the 9th of Teves in 1066, thus ending a Golden Age for Jewry in Spain. He quotes the Raavad’s Sefer HaKabbalah that ‘when Rabboseinu HaKadmonim wrote Megillas Taanis and established a fast on the 9th of Teves, they themselves didn’t know the reason. Later on, after Rav Yosef HaNaggid was assassinated we knew that they foresaw this tragedy with Ruach HaKodesh’. An additional reason for fasting on this day is cited by the Rema in his commentary to Megillas Esther (Mechir Yayin, Ch.2, 16) that this was the day that Esther was forcibly taken to Achashveirosh’s palace. Interestingly, some posit (as heard in the name of Rav Moshe Shapiro shlit”a; also found in the Davar B’Ito calendar, 9 Teves; the origin of this seems to be the 12th century Sefer HaAvor, by R’ Avraham bar Chiya) that the real reason for fasting is that the 9th of Teves is the true birthday of ‘Oso HaIsh’, founder of Christianity, in whose name myriads of Jews over the millennia were r”lmurdered.

[15]As found throughout Shas – see for example Bava Kama (82a) and Kesuvos (3a).

[16]Sefer HaToda’ah (vol. 1, Ch. 8, Chodesh Teves, end par. Yom Kasheh).

[17]Although the Gemara (Eruvin 41a concludes ‘Halacha – Mesaneh U’Mashlim’, even so there are many Rishonim (most notably Tosafos ad loc. 41b s.v. v’hilchasa) who understand that to mean that one may conclude his Erev Shabbos fast at Tzeis HaKochavim, even though it means he will enter Shabbos famished (a situation that is normally disfavored), and not that one must conclude his fast on Friday night atTzeis HaKochavim. A further complication is that this also may depend on whether one is fasting for personal reasons (Taanis Yachid) or an obligatory public fast (Taanis Tzibbur). The Rema (O.C. 249, 4) concludes that for a Taanis Yachid one may rely upon the lenient opinions and end his fast after he accepted Shabbos, prior toTzeis HaKochavim (especially if he made such a stipulation before commencing his fast), yet for a Taanis Tzibbur he rules that we follow the Rishonim who mandate strict interpretation of the Gemara, and we must fast until actual nightfall on Friday night. It is debatable whether the Shulchan Aruch is actually fully agreeing with this approach or not exactly. See explanation of the Mishna Berura (ad loc. 21 and Biur Halacha s.v. v’im) at length. This has since become normative halacha. See next footnote.

[18]See Shulchan Aruch and Rema (O.C. 249, 4), based on the Rosh (Taanis Ch. 2, 4) and Maharil (Shu”t 33); Magen Avraham (ad loc. 8), Bach (ad loc. end 6), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 7), Elya Rabba (ad loc. 10), Korban Nesanel (Taanis, end Ch. 2, 60), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (ad loc. 12), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (121, 6), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parshas Lech Lecha 23), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 10), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 21 and Biur Halacha s.v. v’im), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 29 & 31), Shu”t Yabea Omer (vol. 6, O.C. 31), Shu”t Yechaveh Daas (vol. 1, 80), Netei Gavriel (Hilchos Chanuka, Shu”t 14), Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 249, 7), and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (121, 5). The Netei Gavriel adds thatB’shaas Hadchak and l’tzorech gadol one may be mekabel Shabbos early and rely on the lenient opinions, as long it is after nightfall according to several opinions (meaning, a much earlier zman of Tzeis HaKochavim than the faster would usually observe).

[19] See Shulchan HaTahor (249, 13) who writes that usually it is assur to complete a Friday fast until Tzeis HaKochavim, , even an obligatory fast, as it is an affront toKedushas Shabbos; rather he maintains that one should be mekabel Shabbos early and have his seudah before nightfall. Yet, in his explanations (Zer Zahav ad loc. 4) he maintains that regarding Asarah B’Teves on Friday, since we are beholden to follow the ruling of the Rema, he maintains that one should still be mekabel Shabbos early, and daven earlier than usual, to enable us to end the fast with making Kiddush at the exact zman of Tzeis HaKochavim.

[20]Rambam (Hilchos Ta’anis Ch.5, 1); see also Mishna Berura (549, 1).

[21]Zecharia (Ch.8, 19).

Single Malt Scotch & Sherry Casks: A Halachic Perspective

Among the many types of alcoholic beverages that one may encounter at a simcha, one will inevitably find a bottle of Scotch whisky. Scotch has been produced in Scotland for hundreds of years and there are currently
many brands and varieties available. The connoisseur may have his preferred Single Malt Scotch, but the average person will sample whatever varieties he may see. As most Scotch manufacturers do not have Kashrus supervision for their products, much attention has recently been directed to the halachic status of Scotch.

Click the link below to download a detailed halachic essay by Rabbi Akiva Niehaus of the Chicago Community Kollel discussing the numerous kashrus issues related to single malt scotch and sherry casks.

[download id=”341″]

An Accomplished Woman, Who Can Find?

A Letter to the Women from Rebbitzen Susan Rich

Dear Ladies,

אשת חיל מי ימצא – An Accomplished Woman, Who Can Find?

The women of our Shul who support and encourage their husbands’ learning and minyan attendance are to be commended. The sacrifice you make by doing this, whether it be staying at home alone when you would really like his company, putting the children to bed by yourself when the dishes are piled in the sink and the groceries need to be put away, or wanting to rest after a long day, is immeasurable and earns great reward.

There are many ways a wife can encourage her husband. If we have to go out in the evening, we can arrange for a babysitter, even if it involves a financial sacrifice. (The reward will far outweigh the minimal cost.) This shows him that we value his minyan attendance and davening. We can make sure dinner is ready at a time that will allow him to eat peacefully, and not rush, and still get to shul on time. We can give him space when he comes home from work, or even time for a power nap, so he will be refreshed and able to daven and learn with a clear head. We can tell him how proud we are of the time he devotes to learning, of his commitment to the Shul, and of his sacrifices for learning. A little bit of positive reinforcement goes a very long way. AND, most importantly, we can be up waiting for him when he comes home with excitement for his and our achievements.

It may seem easier to be a man, but don’t be fooled by the fact that he “gets” to go out all the time. He also wants to spend time with you and the children, and rest after a long day. Yet we learn that there is no better way for a man to spend his time than learning Torah. That is not to say that he should never help you. There is a story about each and every gadol and how he helped prepare for Shabbos.

But if we put society’s view of the marriage partnership aside for the Torah view, and look realistically at how the household should run, we see that women are given special strengths to achieve what we need to run our homes and to turn them into miniature Batei Mikdash.

So at this auspicious time when Hashem is so close to us, we should daven for the continued strength and ability to support our husbands in their Avodas Hashem and that He show us the way to raise this mitzvah to a greater level.

In the merit of the righteous women, we were redeemed from Egypt. Hashem should help us all to grow in our appreciation of our roles as Jewish women and the establishers of the homes that will fashion the next generation of Torah observant Jews. It is an auspicious task, one we should accept with pride and determination.

May we all be written and sealed for a year of good health and growth.

Susan Rich

Laws of the Three Weeks & Tisha B’Av (2012 / 5772)

Background
The 17th of Tammuz is mentioned in Nevi’im (Prophets) – as “the fast of the fourth month” (Zechariah 8:19). The Mishnah (Taanit 4:8) lists five calamities that befell the Jewish people on this date:

  • Moses broke the two tablets of stone on Mount Sinai;
  • The daily tamid offering ceased to be brought;
  • The walls of Jerusalem were breached (proceeding to the destruction of the Temple);
  • Prior to Bar Kokhba’s revolt, Roman military leader Apostomus burned a Torah scroll;
  • An idol was erected in the Temple.

The Babylonian Talmud (Taanit 28b) places the second and fifth tragedies in the First Temple, while dating the third tragedy (breach of Jerusalem) to the Second Temple period. Jerusalem of the First Temple, on the other hand, was breached on the 9th of Tammuz (cf. Jeremiah 52.6-7).

The Three Weeks or Bein ha-Metzarim (Hebrew: בין המצרים, “Between the Straits”) is a period of mourning commemorating the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples. The Three Weeks start on the seventeenth day of the Jewish month of Tammuz — the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz — and end on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av — the fast of Tisha B’Av, which occurs exactly three weeks later. Both of these fasts commemorate events surrounding the destruction of the Jewish Temples and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the land of Israel. According to conventional chronology, the destruction of the first Temple, by Nevuchadrezzar II, occurred in 586 BCE, and the second, by the Romans, in 70 CE. Jewish chronology, however, traditionally places the first destruction at about 421 BCE.

Observances of the Three Weeks:

  • taking a haircut
  • shaving
  • listening to music
  • as well, no Jewish marriages are allowed during the Three Weeks, since the joy of such an event would conflict with the expected mood of mourning during this time.

Observances of the Nine Days:

  • One should not purchase an object of joy that will be available after Tisha B’Av for the same price.
  • Building for beauty or pleasure not required for dwelling should be suspended.
  • Building for a mitzvah like a synagogue, place of Torah study, or a mikva is permitted.
  • Painting, wallpapering and general home decoration should not be done.
  • Similarly, one should not plant for pleasure.

Eating Meat and Drinking Wine

  • The custom is to refrain from eating meat and poultry or drinking wine and grape juice during the nine days. This also pertains to children.
  • The prohibition of meat includes foods cooked with meat or meat fat. However, foods cooked in a clean vessel used for meat may be eaten.
  • Eating meat and drinking wine is permitted for Shabbos. Even one who has ushered in the Shabbos on Friday afternoon before sunset, or extends the third meal of Shabbos into Saturday night may also eat meat and drink wine at those times.
  • Similarly, one may drink the wine of Havdallah. Some have the custom to give the wine to a child of 6-9 years old, or to use beer for Havdallah.
  • Meat and wine are also permitted at a meal in honor of a mitzvah like bris milah, redemption of the first born, and completing a tractate or other books.
  • A person who requires meat because of weakness or illness, including small children and pregnant or nursing women who have difficulty eating dairy, may eat meat. However, whenever possible poultry is preferable to meat.

Laundering

  • Laundering is prohibited even for use after Tisha B’Av. One may not even give clothing to a non-Jewish cleaner. (Although one may give it to him before the 1st of Av, even though he’ll wash during the nine days.)
  • The prohibition of laundering includes linens, tablecloths, and towels.
    A person who has no clean clothes may wash what he needs until the Shabbos before Tisha B’Av.
  • Children’s diapers and clothing that constantly get dirty may be washed by need even during the week of Tisha B’Av, in private.
  • Laundering for the purpose of a mitzvah is permitted.
  • One may polish shoes with liquid or wax polish, but should avoid shining shoes.

Wearing Freshly Laundered Clothing

  • It is forbidden to wear freshly laundered clothing during the nine days. This includes all clothing except that which is worn to absorb perspiration.
  • Therefore, one must prepare before the nine days by wearing freshly laundered suits, pants, shirts, dresses, blouses and the like for a short time so that they may be worn during the nine days. Socks, undershirts and underwear need not be prepared.
  • Here too, the prohibition of using freshly laundered items applies to linens, tablecloths, and towels.
  • One may wear freshly laundered Shabbos clothing, as well as use clean tablecloths and towels. Changing bed linen though is prohibited.
  • Since one may wear freshly laundered garments on Shabbos, if one forgot or was unable to prepare enough garments before the nine days, he may change for Friday night and then change again on Shabbos morning. These garments may then be worn during the week.
    This will apply only to clothing that is suitable to wear on Shabbos, since wearing a garment on Shabbos for the sole purpose of wearing it during the week is forbidden.
  • Fresh garments and Shabbos clothing may be worn in honor of a mitzvah for example at a brit milah for the parents, mohel, and sandek.

Wearing, Buying and Making New Clothes, Repairing Garments

  • While wearing new clothing that doesn’t require the blessing “sh’hecheyanu” is permitted until the 1st of Av, during the nine days it is prohibited even on Shabbos.
  • One may not buy new clothes or shoes even for use after Tisha B’Av, except in a case of great necessity, for example for one’s wedding.
  • If one forgot or was unable to buy special shoes needed for Tisha B’Av, he may do so during the nine days.
  • Making new garments or shoes for a Jew is permitted until the Sunday before Tisha B’Av. Afterwards it is permitted only for a non-Jew.
  • Repairing torn garments or shoes is permitted.

Bathing and Swimming

  • The custom is not to bathe for pleasure even in cold water.
  • Bathing in cold water for medical reasons or to remove dirt or perspiration is permitted. (Where cold water is required, hot water may be added to cold water as long as the mixture is not comfortably warm.)
  • Soaping or shampooing and washing with hot or warm water are prohibited – unless it is required for medical reasons or to remove the dirt and perspiration.
  • Swimming is prohibited except for medical reasons. Similarly, one may take a quick dip in a pool to remove dirt or sweat.
  • Bathing for a mitzvah is permitted, for example, a woman who needs to bathe for her immersion.
    A man who immerses in a mikva every Friday may do so in cold water during The Nine Days. But one who omits immersing occasionally because he is too busy or because of the cold may not.
  • One who bathes every Friday in honor of Shabbos with hot water, soap and shampoo may do so on the Friday before Tisha B’Av.

The Day Before Tisha B’Av

  • If a bris or redemption of the first-born occurs on the day before Tisha B’Av, if meat is being served the meal must be held before noon. Since the heart rejoices in the study of Torah, from noon some people refrain from learning topics other than what is relevant to Tisha B’Av or mourning. However, many people learn all topics of Torah until sunset. Since Tisha B’Av is called a moed (holiday or appointed day, Lamentations 1:15), no tachanun is said at mincha in the afternoon before Tisha B’Av (nor on Tisha B’Av itself). The custom is to eat a final meal after mincha and before sunset, consisting of bread, cold hard-boiled eggs and water. The meal is eaten while seated on the ground, a portion of the bread should be
  • dipped in ashes and eaten, and no mezumen is said in the blessing after the meal. After the meal, one may sit normally until sunset. Shoes may be worn all day until sunset.

Tisha B’Av

Eating and Drinking

  • All eating and drinking is forbidden. This includes rinsing the mouth and brushing teeth, except in a case of great distress.
  • Swallowing capsules or bitter tablets or liquid medicine without water is permitted.
  • The ill or elderly as well as pregnant and nursing women are required to fast even if it is difficult, unless a doctor says that fasting may injure health, in which case a competent rabbi should be consulted.
  • A woman within seven days of childbirth may not fast, and within thirty days should not fast.
  • Boys under thirteen years old and girls under twelve years old are not allowed to fast even part of the day.
  • Those not required to fast should eat only what is needed to preserve their health.

Bathing and Washing

  • All bathing for pleasure is prohibited even in cold water including the hands, face and feet. Ritual washing upon waking, after using the bathroom, touching covered parts of the body or before praying is permitted, but only up to the knuckles. One may wash dirty or sullied portions of the body (including cleaning the eyes of glutinous material), and if necessary may use soap or warm water to remove the dirt or odor. Washing for cooking or for medical reasons is permitted. A woman may not immerse on Tisha B’Av since relations are prohibited. Washing to commence the clean days is permitted.

Anointing

  • Anointing for pleasure is prohibited including oil, soap, alcohol, cream, ointment, perfume, etc.
  • Anointing for medical reasons is permitted, as well as using deodorant to remove bad odor.

Marital Relations

  • Since cohabitation is prohibited, a husband and wife should not come in contact during the night of Tisha B’Av.

Wearing Leather Shoes

  • Even shoes made partially of leather are prohibited.
  • Shoes made of cloth, rubber or plastic are permitted.
  • Wearing leather shoes is permitted for medical reasons.

Learning Torah

  • Since the heart rejoices in the study of Torah, it is prohibited to learn topics other than those relevant to Tisha B’Av or mourning.
  • One may learn: Lamentations with its midrash and commentaries, portions of the Prophets that deal with tragedy or destruction, the third chapter of Moed Katan (which deals with mourning), the story of the destruction (in Gittin 56b-58a, Sanhedrin 104, and in Josephus), and the halachos of Tisha B’Av and mourning.

Additional Restrictions

  • One should deprive himself of some comfort in sleep. Some reduce the number of pillows, some sleep on the floor.
  • Pregnant women, the elderly and the ill are exempt. Sitting on a normal chair is forbidden until midday.
  • One may sit on a low bench or chair, or on a cushion on the floor.
  • Greeting someone with “good morning” and the like is prohibited. One who is greeted should answer softly and, if possible, inform the person of the prohibition.
  • One should not give a gift except to the needy.
  •  Things that divert one from mourning such as idle talk, reading the newspaper, taking a walk for pleasure, etc. are prohibited.
  • Smoking is prohibited until afternoon, and then only for one who is compelled to and in private.
  • The custom is to refrain until midday from any time-consuming work that diverts one from mourning. In a case of financial loss, consult the rabbi.

Prayer

  • Ashkenazim do not wear tefillin at Shacharit, nor is a blessing made on tzitzit. At Mincha, tefillin is worn and those who wear a tallit gadol make the blessing then.
  • At Mincha, the prayers Nacheim and Aneinu are added to the Shmonah Esrei during the blessing “Veliyerushalayim” and “Shma Koleinu” respectively. “Sim Shalom” is said in place of “Shalom Rav.” If one forgot them and completed that bracha, he need not repeat the prayer.
  • The custom is to sanctify the new moon the night after Tisha B’Av, preferably after having eaten something.

The Day After Tisha B’Av

  • It is permitted to do laundry, take haircuts, immediately after Tisha B’Av this year as the fast is a nidcheh (pushed off from Shabbos to Sunday). Eating meat, drinking wine, and listen to music should be delayed until the next morning.