Hilchos Tisha B’Av

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The following is meant as a convenient review of Halachos pertaining to Tisha B’Av. The Piskei Din for the most part are based purely on the Sugyos, Shulchan Aruch and Rama, and the Mishna Berura, unless stated otherwise. They are based on my understanding of the aforementioned texts through the teachings of my Rebeim. As individual circumstances are often important in determining the psak in specific cases, and as there may be different approaches to some of the issues, one should always check with one’s Rov first.

Click here for When Tisha b’Av is Observed on Sunday

Erev Tisha B’Av:

Fasting on Tisha B’Av:

  1. Women very soon after birth don’t fast (for the first seven days for sure).
  2. R’ Lippa Rabinowitz (Shlita – my Grand father-in-law) maintains lactating mothers of babies that are not also taking bottles should not fast (this is based on a M’aaseh Shehaya with Rav Rabinov Zatzal)
  1. People who are sick or very weak on Tisha B’Av have the same din as on any other Taanis.
    1. If they would like to continue fasting and they know it poses no real danger to their personal well being then they may. However one must bear in mind that, should they stop fasting, they will need to make up this fast another time.
      1. Although when they make up the fast at another point in time they need to fast for a 24hr + period of time, they do not need to perform the other stringencies of Tisha B’Av such as not washing, not wearing leather shoes etc.
    2. If they have already fasted past Chatzos then they do not need to make up the fast at a future point in time.
      1. If a person broke their fast before Chatzos and on the makeup fast they fast until Chatzos and then break it they were Yotzei and do not need to make it up again.
  1. People who unfortunately suffer from an eating disorder should not fast on Tisha B’Av. If they wish to fast they should consult with both their professional guidance (i.e. therapist, dietician etc.) and their Rov.
  2. Reb Chaim Brisker maintained that people with various psychological ailments are considered to be dangerously ill and therefore shouldn’t fast (Mipi Hashmua, see also Shiurei HaRav). Someone with an acute mental illness should ask their professional guidance and Rov as to whether they should fast or not.

Smachos on Tisha B’Av:

Other things we refrain from on Tisha B’Av:

  1. On Tisha B’Av it is forbidden to bathe, anoint our bodies, to wear leather shoes, and to have intimate relations. Furthermore Chazal also forbade regular Torah study, to the point that they even forbade the Torah study of minors. These prohibitions are forbidden even for those who are not fasting.
    1. Bathing is so strictly forbidden that even putting one’s finger into water is also not allowed.
    2. One still must wash their hands in the normal ritual manner in the morning and before Tefillah as well. However one must be careful to wash only until the knuckles.
      1. After washing the mourning washing and drying one’s hands slightly one should take one’s moist hands and clean around their eyes.
    3. After using the bathroom and the like one must wash one’s hands. For hygienic in this situation allow one is permitted to wash in the regular manner, even though from a purely halachic standpoint the washing would be as in the morning – until the knuckles.
    4. It is permissible to wash dirt from any part of the body. This should be done in the most minimal way possible.
    5. Using a damp washcloth (baby wipe etc.) isn’t considered washing oneself.
  2. Anointing oneself is only forbidden when it is done for pleasure; therefore if someone is dressing a cut or putting cream onto damaged skin there is no problem.
    1. Many permit the use of deodorants as they aren’t rubbed on for any enjoyment. Since there are those who maintain that since deodorants aren’t for healing purposes they are still considered anointing (halachikly), it is preferable to put on deodorant before Tisha B’Av. If someone needs to put on deodorant on Tisha B’Av, however, it is ok to.
      1. It is preferable to use spray deodorant and not roll on or stick. If someone does not have spray deodorant then any sort is fine.
    2. The prohibition of wearing shoes applies only to leather shoes. All other shoes may be worn.
      1. Recently there have been Rabbonim who have reportedly forbidden wearing crocs on Tisha B’Av and Yom-Kippur. While one may find in the Rishonim (See Rosh in Yevamos) good reason to forbid shoes of all sorts — not just leather. If one wants to go according to these Rishonim all real shoes, sandals, and slippers will be a problem other than flip-flops and house slippers. Therefore there is no reason that crocks should be Assur and one may wear them.
        1. There are those that are particular not to wear any shoes on Tisha B’Av as per the aforementioned opinions.
      2. When necessary, it is permitted to wear even leather shoes:
        1. If a person needs to walk in the streets on Tisha B’Av where leather shoes are necessary, it is permitted to wear them in the street, but one should take them off when once arrived at one’s destination. It is preferable to wear shoes made of synthetic materials on Tisha B’Av since these are widely available nowadays. However if someone doesn’t own such shoes they are not obligated to buy them just because they need to walk a long distance.
        2. If somebody needs to be amongst non-Jews (as opposed to non-religious Jews) and it would look strange for them not to be wearing leather shoes, then it is permissible for them as well to wear leather shoes. Should they own synthetic shoes, however, it is preferable to wear those. (There is no obligation to buy such shoes).
          1. One should not wear leather looking synthetic shoes when not necessary because others who see them may assume that they are leather.
  1. We are makpid that husband and wife don’t sleep in the same bed or connected beds on Tisha B’Av.
    1. There are those who are makpid to sleep with a candle or light in the room on Tisha B’Av.
  2. Dovid HaMelech says in Tehillim that Torah makes a person happy; therefore we don’t learn or teach Torah on Tisha B’Av.
    1. It is permissible to learn the rebuke that the Neviim gave to Klal-Yisroel such as those of Yeshayahu and Yermiyahu. It is also permissible to learn Iyov, and Eicha. Midrash Eicha and the various Agadata gemoros that deal with the Churban Beis Hamikdash are also permissible. Hilchos Tisha B’Av is also ok to learn.
      1. Traditionally children are taught the agadata Gemoros and the like dealing with the Churban.
      2. In the recent past it has become accepted to have videotaped Shiurim shown on topics of Shmiras Halashon and the like after Chatzos. This was allowed because for many it offered a “Kosher” activity for the afternoon hours of Tisha B’Av, and the particular topic was always one that had to do with what we need to do Teshuva for in order to merit the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash. As the aim in showing them has been to encourage Am-Yisroel to do Teshuva. Since these videos targeted many people who would otherwise not be spending their time so constructively, this was allowed by many important and prominent Rabbonim. Recently people have opposed them and instead they are screened Erev Tisha B’Av. I don’t understand the reasoning for this change.

Other activities that are forbidden on Tisha B’Av:

Working and doing odds and ends on Tisha B’Av:

Talis and tefillin:

Focusing on Mourning the Churban:

The purpose of most of the Halachos and customs of Tisha B’Av is to facilitate our focusing on mourning the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. The Poskim’s instructing us to put off food preparations for after the fast until after Chatzos illustrates that even necessities need to be postponed as much as possible. The Poskim also stress that our Minhag is to stay in Shul until Chatzos saying Kinos. It definitely seems that Chazal intended for us to focus on the Churban, and to focus on the Churban alone.

The following points are Halachos and Hanhagos designed specifically to help us focus on the Churban:

  1. The Poskim bring down that one shouldn’t go to the market place – shopping malls – or take strolls because it might make a person lose focus on the Churban, and even worse, possibly even to be light-headed, and behave in a manner inappropriate to the sadness of the day.
    1. A person definitely should refrain from shopping on Tisha B’Av.
      1. If it is for food for after the fast or the like it is preferable to put it off until after Chatzos.
    2. One must definitely refrain from watching any sort of video that doesn’t have anything to do with Tisha B’Av.
      1. While various Holocaust documentaries may be appropriate, just because a movie is based on a story that happened during the years of the Holocaust doesn’t necessarily make it sad and appropriate for Tisha B’Av.
      2. Not just because a video is “Torahdik” (see section on Torah study above) does it mean that it is appropriate for Tisha B’Av either.
      3. The same holds true for books: not just because a novel is based on occurrences that occurred during the Holocaust is it appropriate for Tisha B’Av. Lehavdil, not just because a book is “Torahdik” does it mean that it is appropriate for Tisha B’Av.
  1. Since many people do not work on Tisha B’Av, it is important to be especially careful that the day not become an excuse for social gatherings. We must be extra careful not to talk Devarim assurim, as the purpose of the fast is to focus on doing Teshuva for our wrongdoings that caused the destruction. Engaging in such forbidden activities allows the destruction to continue to be.
  2. Singing songs on Tisha B’Av that are not related to the Churban, and that are not in tunes appropriate to the day is Assur.
  1. There are Chassidim and Anshei Maaseh who try to get up to daven at dawn and not to sleep the whole day of Tisha B’Av – the reason being that while one sleeps one obviously cannot focus on the Churban (HaRav Yisroel Belsky Shlita).
    1. While it may be difficult not to sleep all day Tisha B’Av it is definitely advisable not to sleep before Chatzos.
  2. There have been discussions amongst the Nowadays Poskim regarding smoking on Tisha B’Av (this is aside from any Halachic discussions as to the general Mutar/Assur status of smoking). Rabbi Belsky holds that it is Mutar to smoke on Tisha B’Av. There are those that say that this shouldn’t be done before Chatzos (different Poskim hold this for different reasons).

Motzei Tisha B’Av:

  1. After the fast is out we still do not shower (bathe), do laundry, shave, take haircuts, or eat meat until after Chatzos the next day – basically the same Hanhagos as during the nine days. The difference is that after Tisha B’Av is more Kal.
    1. While this whole night and half day aveilus is more Kal than the rest of the nine days, the night following Tisha B’Av is more Chamur than the next day before Chatzos. Therefore if issues arise that would require doing one of the forbidden acts one is more likely to be allowed accordingly (and one should ask their Rov).