Significance: Remembers major communal tragedies
Observances: Fasting; reading the book of Lamentations
Length: 25 hours
Customs: Torah cabinet is draped in black
Five misfortunes befell our fathers ... on the ninth of Av.
...On the ninth of Av it was decreed that our fathers should not enter the
[Promised] Land, the Temple was destroyed the first and second time, Bethar was
captured and the city [Jerusalem] was ploughed up.
-Mishnah Ta'anit 4:6
...Should I weep in the fifth month [Av], separating myself,
as I have done these so many years? -Zechariah 7:3
In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month ...came
Nebuzaradan ... and he burnt the house of the L-RD... -II Kings 25:8-9
In the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month... came
Nebuzaradan ... and he burnt the house of the L-RD... - Jeremiah 52:12-13
How then are these dates to be reconciled? On the seventh
the heathens entered the Temple and ate therein and desecrated it throughout
the seventh and eighth and towards dusk of the ninth they set fire to it and it
continued to burn the whole of that day. ... How will the Rabbis then [explain
the choice of the 9th as the date]? The beginning of any misfortune [when the
fire was set] is of greater moment. -Talmud Ta'anit 29a
Tisha B'Av, the Fast of the Ninth of Av, is a day of
mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the
Jewish people, many of which have occurred on the
ninth of Av.
Tisha B'Av means "the ninth (day) of Av." It occurs in July or August.
Tisha B'Av primarily commemorates the destruction of the first and second
Temples, both of which were destroyed on the
ninth of Av (the first by the Babylonians in 586
B.C.E.; the second by the Romans in 70
Although this holiday is primarily meant to commemorate the destruction of the
Temple, it is appropriate to consider on this day the many other tragedies of
the Jewish people, many of which occurred on this day, most notably the
expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and from England in 1290.1
1 The Alhambra Decree, issued March 31, 1492, ordered all Jews to
leave Spain by the end of July 1492. July 31, 1492 was Tisha B'Av. The Edict of
Expulsion from England was issued on July 18, 1290. Note that if you use a
Jewish calendar converter to check this, it will probably show these dates as a
few days before the 9th of Av. These expulsions occurred before the Gregorian
calendar reform, which altered the way the secular calendar works, and
converters don't take this into account, which causes the discrepancy.
I have recently heard some try to connect the Tisha B'Av to
which began on the 9th of November, or to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade
Center. I think this is stretching the point a bit too far. Setting aside the
question of whether you can find significance in secular dates that have the
same numbers as significant Hebrew dates, or whether you can swap day and
month, there is a much more serious problem: Av is not the 11th month of the
Jewish calendar. This is clear from the biblical quotes above, which talk about
Av as the 5th month. So where did people get the idea that Av is the 11th
month? Probably by counting from Tishri, the
month of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. But
the Torah is very clear that months are counted from
Nissan, not Tishri.
Tisha B'Av is the culmination of a three week period of increasing mourning,
beginning with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz,
which commemorates the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem, before the First
Temple was destroyed. During this three week period, weddings and other parties
are not permitted, and people refrain from cutting their hair. From the first
to the ninth of Av, it is customary to refrain from eating meat or drinking
wine (except on the Shabbat) and from wearing
The restrictions on Tisha B'Av are similar to those on
Yom Kippur: to refrain from eating and
drinking (even water); washing, bathing, shaving or wearing cosmetics; wearing
leather shoes; engaging in sexual relations; and studying Torah. Work in the
ordinary sense of the word [rather than the
Shabbat sense] is also restricted. People who
are ill need not fast on this day. Many of the traditional
mourning practices are observed: people refrain
from smiles, laughter and idle conversation, and sit on low stools.
In synagogue, the book of Lamentations is read and mourning prayers are
recited. The ark (cabinet where the Torah is kept) is draped in black.
Tisha B'Av is never observed on Shabbat. If the
9th of Av falls on a Saturday, the fast is postponed until the 10th of Av.
List of Dates
Tisha B'Av will occur on the following days of the secular calendar:
- Jewish Year 5773: sunset July 15, 2013 - nightfall July 16, 2013
- Jewish Year 5774: sunset August 4, 2014 - nightfall August 5, 2014
- Jewish Year 5775: sunset July 25, 2015 - nightfall July 26, 2015
- Jewish Year 5776: sunset August 13, 2016 - nightfall August 14, 2016
- Jewish Year 5777: sunset July 31, 2017 - nightfall August 1, 2017
For additional holiday dates, see Links to Jewish
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