Tisha B'Av is a Jewish holiday, commemorated every year on the ninth day of Av. In 2023, it will begin at sundown on July 26 and continue till nightfall the next day, that is July 27. It is a day of mourning and fasting, as many disasters are said to have happened to the Jewish people on this day.
The two main tragedies remembered on this day are the destruction of Solomon's Temple and the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Due to the historical events, Tisha B'Av is considered to be the saddest day in the Jewish calendar.
While Tisha B'Av is not a public holiday, some Jewish-owned businesses and organizations may be closed for the day.
Tisha B'Av History
Tisha B'Av (meaning The Ninth of Av) is a day of sorrow and fasting for Jews, that began after the destruction of the First Temple in 585 BCE. After its reconstruction, the temple, now known as the Second Temple, was destroyed once again in 70 CE. This began a long period of ostracization of the Jewish people, and are two of the Five Calamities that befell the Jews on the ninth of Av.
The other three calamities that Jewish people lament on Tisha B'Av are:
The twelve spies were sent to the land of Canaan by Moses, of which ten came back with negative reports on the land. This caused the Children of Israel to despair in fear of never entering the Promised Land, for which they were punished by God, who declared that the ninth of Av would be a day when the Jews would be crying for generations.
The capture of Beitar by the Romans, where thousands of Jewish people were murdered. Beitar was a city situated southwest of Jerusalem that a Roman Genera called Severus attacked and captured after a two and half year of military siege.
The destruction of Jerusalem in 136 CE.
The tragedies on the ninth of Av have followed the Jewish people for centuries, and many events have happened in recent years such as:
The expulsion of Jews from England, France, and Spain between the 13th and 15th centuries.
The approval of "The Final Solution" by the Nazi Party, started the Holocaust, in which a third of the world's Jewish population lost their lives.
The deportation of Jewish people from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka.
Even though the Holocaust lasted for many years, many Jews chose to mourn the victims during Tisha B'Av.
Thus, Tisha B'Av is a day of communal mourning, where Jewish people practice fasting from sunset until nightfall, and abstain from any pleasures or leisurely activities.
Tisha B'Av Traditions and Practices
The period of mourning begins three weeks before Tisha B'Av on the 17th of Tammuz. A lot of Jews do not have any major celebrations during this period, such as getting married. More intense mourning begins nine days before Tisha B'Av, where Jewish people do not eat meat, wash their clothes or cut their hair. All of these are considered signs of luxury, thus inappropriate.
On Tisha B'Av, people fast for a full day. The last meal before fasting must happen before sunset on the day previous to the ninth of Av. Moreover, the diet should comprise round foods like lentils or eggs that symbolize mourning and the cycle of life.
Torah study, a joyful event, is not permitted on Tisha B'Av. During prayers, the lights in the synagogue are dimmed and people are not allowed to exchange greetings.
On this day, the Book of Lamentations is read. It is a collection of five poems written by Prophet Jeremiah who mourned the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Activities such as applying perfume, washing one's body, or engaging in sexual activities are prohibited.