Friday, August 5, 2011

Tisha BeAb: Food for thought for a day of fasting

As we get closer to Tish'a beAb we restrict more and more our involvement in activities related to basic comfort (laundry, bathing, shaving) as if we were in mourning. These are also days of introspection and repentance. At the end of the day, we admit our own responsibility in the destruction of the Temple and our exile.

We also know that if we do Teshuba (repentance), amending our behavior, haShem will forgive us and embrace us again.

It happened once!

In 586 BCE the First bet haMikdash was destroyed. The Jews of that time were guilty of the three capital sins: idolatry, murder, promiscuity. Eventually, after 70 years in exile they came back to haShem, they repented, changing their behavior and as a result of their Teshuba, they were granted the merit to build the Second Bet haMikdash.

The second Bet haMikdash was destroyed almost 2000 years ago (68 ACE). The Rabbis explain that the Jews of that time were observant of all ritual laws. But they hated each other (sin-at chinam). They would humiliate each other in public, and no one would react to defend the victim. They will speak Lashon haRa (slander), fight for no reason, and show disrespect and intolerance.

That behavior caused the Presence of God to abandon us and His House. The Bet haMikdash, without the Presence of Hashem, was just a pile of bricks and stones... A body without its soul. We allowed God's presence to leave...

My question is: why we don't have the merit, a divine-guided opportunity, to build the THIRD Bet haMikdash NOW? Is God rejecting our repentance?

The answer seems obvious, sad and shocking.

The fact that we still don't have our THIRD Bet haMikdash is indicative that, sadly, we are still guilty of the same sins as we were 2000 years ago.

We have not corrected our 'social sins'. Fight, intolerance, jealousy, slander and hatred have become part of an acceptable behavior.

It seems that only when we will become more tolerant, more united, more respectful and feel more responsible for each other, we will have our chance to rebuild the Bet haMikdash.

It is very much, up to us.

Read HERE "What happened on Tish'a beAb?"

Read HERE "Restrictions on Tish'a beAb" (part 1)

Read HERE "Restrictions on Tish'a beAb" (part 2)

Read HERE "Rules for the day of Fasting"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tisha BeAb: rules for a day of fasting

In the aftermath of the destruction of the Bet haMikdash (586 BCE), the Prophets of Israel established the fast of Tish'a beAb. Unlike other fast days (except Kippur) in Tish'a beAb we don't eat or drink for a whole day, almost twenty five hours.

The fast will begin Monday August 8th at 7:55 (N.Y. time) until Tuesday August 9th at 8:42 (N.Y. time).

The fast of Tish'a beAb should be observed by all those who are in good health.


Pregnant and nursing women: Similar to Yom Kippur, pregnant and nursing women, in principle, should observe this fast. In cases of complications or physical weakness or if the mother thinks the fast will affect her health or her baby's health, she should ask her doctor and proceed as the physician recommends (Listen to Dr. Jacobs audio file!). If during the fast she feels sick, especially if she is vomiting or having other signs of dehydration, she should break the fast and eat immediately. However, mild dizziness and nausea that can be coped with, by lying down on a couch or a bed, are considered normal.

Yoledet: During the first 30 days after birth, a woman is exempted from fasting.

Minors: boys younger than 13 and girls before 12 are completely exempted from fasting. Unlike Yom Kippur, there is no need for children to fast for a few hours.

Chole She-en Bo Sakana: People with a chronic disease like diabetes or patients under treatment or somebody with high fever should not do this fast. Many rabbis recommend that in these cases, when possible, one should try to fast until the morning.

Elders should consult with their physicians to make sure that the fast will not affect their health. If it will, they are exempted (or forbidden) from fasting.

When one is allowed to eat for health reasons, one should eat only whatever is necessary for his or her health, and not in excess

Click HERE to listen to Dr. Jessica Jacobs lecture:

"Fasting and Pregnancy"

This presentation was given in our community close to Yom Kippur. Most information is relevant for Tish'a beAb as well. The most important difference is that on Tish'a BeAb, when exempted from the fast, one can eat normally and does not have to eat in small portions, as it is required on Yom Kippur.

For American history fans.
Click HERE to read about an American Yom Kippur, March 30, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Restrictions on the 9th of Ab, Part Two

Yesterday we explained that besides fasting, there are a few other activities which are forbidden to do on Tish'a beAb, either because they involve some expression of happiness, pleasure, joy or because they distract us from attaining the mood of grief and mourning which is appropriate for the saddest day of the Jewish calendar (see yesterday's HOTD HERE ).

That is why on Tish'a BeAb it is not recommended to work. Working will divert our minds from the feeling of grief. Refraining from work on Tisha BeAb, however, is not an formal prohibition, but rather optional, depending ultimately on one's family tradition, and one's financial and professional situation.

LIMUD TORAH: On Tish'a BeAb we don't study Torah, because studying Torah is considered a pleasurable activity. We only read and study books or texts with a 'sad' content such as the book of Iyov or Ekha, Josephus Flavious, etc.

TEFILIN: We do not use Tefilin in the morning. The Tefilin is a signal of 'honor', a crown in our heads which declares that we are the people of God. In our community we use our Talit and Tefilin for Mincha. In Yerushalaim, the Sepharadic Minhag is to wear Talit and Tefilin privately, before one goes to the Synagogue and say the Shema Israel at home with Talit and Tefilin.

SHE-ELAT SHALOM: We don't greet each other as usual, because our mood is a mourner's mood.

SITTING ON THE FLOOR: Many communities have the custom that during the reading of Megilat Ekha people don't sit on the Synagogue's benches but on the floor, while the lights are dimmed, also as an indication of mourning.

Our Chakhamim assured us that those who cried for the destruction of Yerushalaim will have the merit to rejoice with the reconstruction of Yerushalaim, B'H soon, in our days!

Click HERE to watch a special clip on Tish'a beAb by Rabbi Berel Wein.

Read HERE and article by Rabbi Soloveitchik on happiness and mourning.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Restrictions on the 9th of Ab

Tish'a BeAb is our National Day of Mourning. This year, it will be observed from Monday August 8th at night until Tuesday August 9th at night (click HERE to see what tragic events happened to the Jewish people on Tish'a beAb).

Besides fasting (we will deal with the subject of fasting B'H this coming Thursday) there are two categories of 'activities' that are forbidden on Tish'a beAb 1. Activities related to 'Pleasure' and 2. Activities related to joy or which can distract us from the mood of mourning. We abstain from them to express (or awake) an emotional state of grief.

Today we will cover the first category.

WASHING: Same as Yom Kippur, taking a shower, bathing or washing done for pleasure, relax, comfort is forbidden on Tish'a beAb. However, if a part of the body is unclean, one can wash it. Washing our mouth is not permitted on Tish'a beAb. Many rabbis authorize to use baby wipes to clean one's face, hands, etc. because it is not considered washing. We can also wash our hands for Netilat Yadaim, because it is for Mitzva and not for pleasure. The custom, however, is to wash only our fingers.

SIKHA: Using fragrances or creams for pleasure or comfort is no permitted. Medical creams are permitted. Using deodorant is permitted.

LEATHER SHOES: are considered a luxurious item so during Tish'a beAb we don't wear leather shoes. Other leather items, like a belt are permitted.

MARITAL RELATIONS are suspended on Tish'a beAb as if it was Niddah time. If the Mikveh night falls on the eve of Tisha beAb (Monday August 8) it has to be postponed for the next night .

May we all soon rejoice for Binyan Yerushalaym! AMEN

Recommended links to learn more about Tish'a beAb:

OU, on Tish'a BeAb

Aish, on Tish'a BeAb

Monday, August 1, 2011

What Happened on the 9th of Ab

Tish'a BeAb is our National Day of Mourning. We display our sorrow 1. By preparing ourselves emotionally for mourning, 21 days in advance. 2. By behaving in Tish'a BeAb as if we were mourning a loved close relative. 3. By reflecting on our role and accountability in the tragic events that happened on Tish'a BeAb . 4. By trying to amend our ways and religious behavior (teshuba).

On this day, five tragedies occurred to Am Israel

1. CHET HAMERAGELIM: The Jews in the desert accepted the slanderous report of the 10 explorers, and cried the whole night complaining to God that took them out of Egypt, and hinting that He won't be able to take them to the Land of Israel (1312 BCE). The whole generation that left Egypt was condemned to die in the dessert. The night on which they cried, was Tish'a BeAb.

2. CHURBAN HABAYIT HARISHON: The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. Millions of Jews were slaughtered or exiled to the Babylonian empire (586 BCE).

3. CHURBAN HABAYIT HASHENI: The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus. Close to two million Jews were killed, and one million Jews were exiled (68 ACE).

4. NILKEDA BETAR: The Bar Kochba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. The city of Betar - the Jews' last stand against the Romans - was captured and liquidated. Over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered (135 ACE).

5. NECHERASH HAHEKHAL: Around the same time, on the 9th of Ab, the Temple's holiest area and its surroundings was plowed by the Roman general Turnus Rufus. Jerusalem was turned into a pagan city, and renamed Aelia Capitolina. Access to Jews was forbidden.

Click HERE to read: "Kamtza and Bar Kamtza", the story that destroyed the Holy Temple. By Aish.