Friday, July 12, 2013

9 of Ab: avoiding happiness on a day of mourning

Tish'a be-Ab is the Jewish National Day of Mourning. This year, it will be observed from Monday night July 15th until Tuesday night July 16th.  Tisha be-Ab is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. Yesterday we explained that besides fasting we avoid activities that bring us pleasure or happiness as well as things that will distract us from a mood of grief and mourning. 

Some examples: 

WORK:  On Tish'a be-Ab it is not recommended to work. Working would divert our minds from a feeling of grief. Refraining from work on Tish'a be-Ab, however, is not a formal prohibition but rather on one's community's tradition (minhag hamaqom)  and in every individual's financial or professional situation. In any case, it is permitted to work if one would incur in losses or if his or her job position will be compromised.   Our rabbis said that whoever works on Tish'a be-Ab unnecessarily won't see from that day's gains a source of blessing.  

LIMUD TORA: On Tish'a be-Ab we refrain from studying Tora, because studying Tora is considered a joyous and pleasurable activity. We only read and study books or texts with a 'sad' content such as the book of Iyob or Ekha, some Psalms, mo'ed qatan, etc.

TEFILIN: We do not use Tefilin in the morning. Tefilin is a signal of honor and pride: a crown in our heads which declares that we are the people of God. In most Sephardic  communities men wear Talit and Tefilin just in Minha. In Syrian communities the tradition is that before going to the Synagogue in the morning one says Qaddesh Li and the Shema Israel at home with Talit and Tefilin. In other communities men would wear Tefilin and Tallit as normal in the morning (minhag Yerushalayim).   

SHE-ELAT SHALOM: We don't greet each other as usual, because our mood is a mourner's mood. If someone greets us, we can discreetly and politely acknowledge the gesture.  

SITTING ON THE FLOOR: The general custom is that during the reading of Megilat Ekha people don't sit on the Synagogue's benches but on the floor, like mourners, while the lights are dimmed.Sitting on the floor is also an indication of mourning.

May we all soon rejoice for Binyan Yerushalayim! AMEN 

Shabbat Shalom!

Candle lighting in NYC:         8:08 pm
Shabbat ends in NYC:             9:07 pm

Shabbat Hazon

Tomorrow is a special Shabbat called:  "Shabbat Hazon ("Sabbath of "the vision" = חזון).  "Hazon" refers to the prophetic vision of Yesha'ayahu in which he rebuked the people of Israel, and particularly Yerushalayim, for their crimes, their lack of integrity and corruption. This text is found in Isaiah 1:1-27 and it is read as the Haftarah tomorrow. 

Click here to learn more about this Haftarah from "Haftorahman" (Mr. Reuben Ebrahimoff) 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

9 of Ab: Reaching a state of grief

Tish'a be-Ab is the Jewish National Day of Mourning. This year, it will be observed from Monday night July 15th until Tuesday night July 16th.  Besides fasting, during Tish'a be-Ab we behave as if we were mourners grieving for a loved one who just passed away.  To express (or reach) an emotional state of grief we avoid doing certain activities.  These activities are divided into two categories:  1. Activities related to 'pleasure' . 2. Activities related to 'joy'. 

Today we will review some examples of the first category.

Same as Yom Kippur, taking a shower, bathing or washing for pleasure is forbidden on Tish'a be-Ab. However, if a part of the body is unclean we can wash it. 

Washing our mouth is not permitted on Tish'a be-Ab. Except in a situation of great distress. In such a case one should bend the head downward to avoid swallowing any liquid (Rabbi Obadya Yosef).  

It is permitted to use baby wipes to clean one's face, eyes, hands, etc. because it is not considered washing.  Theoretically we could wash our hands normally in the morning for Netilat Yadaim because we do it for a Mitzva and not for pleasure. The standard Sephardic custom, however, is to wash only the fingers.  

A woman preparing the food for the night after the fast can wash her hands.  

Using creams for pleasure or comfort is not permitted. Medical creams or oils are permitted. Using deodorant is permitted. 

LEATHER SHOES are considered a luxurious item so during Tish'a be-Ab we don't wear leather shoes. Other leather items, like a belt or a leather Kippa are permitted.

MARITAL RELATIONS are suspended on Tish'a beAb as if it was Nidda time. If the Mikveh night falls on the eve of Tish'a be-Ab--this coming Monday night--Mikveh has to be postponed for the following night .

May we all soon rejoice for Binyan Yerushalayim! AMEN



Click here to listen to Dr. Jessica Jacob's  lecture:

This presentation was given by Dr. Jessica Jacob's MD/OBGYN in the Mashadi Jewish community before Yom Kippur, 2010.   Most information is relevant for Tish'a be-Ab as well. The most important difference is that on Tish'a be-Ab, 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.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

9 of Ab: Pregnant women and other exemptions for the day of fast

In the aftermath of the destruction of the Bet-haMiqdash the Prophets of Israel established that the 9th of Ab will be declared a Day of Fasting.  In Tish'a be-Ab we don't eat or drink for a whole day, similar to Yom Kippur.

The fast will take place this year from Monday night July 15th until Tuesday night July 16th. 

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


Yoledet: During the first 30 days after birth or after a miscarriage a woman is exempted from fasting on the 9th of Ab.

Pregnant and nursing women: Similar to Yom Kippur, pregnant and nursing women observe this fast. In cases of complicated pregnancies or physical weakness, or if the pregnant mother is worried that fasting will affect her health or her baby's health, she should ask her doctor before the fast-day and proceed as the physician recommends. If during the fast a pregnant woman feels sick, especially if she is vomiting or having any signs of dehydration, she should break the fast and drink or eat immediately. However, mild dizziness and nausea that can be coped with by lying down on a couch or a bed are considered normal (Listen to a very important lecture "Pregnancy and fasting" at the bottom of this email). 

Hole She-en Bo Sakana: People with a chronic disease like diabetes or patients under treatment or someone with high fever should not observe the fast. In some cases, when is not possible to fast for 24 hours Rabbis would recommend trying to fast from dawn until the end of the day, as if it was the 17 of Tamuz or 10 of Tebet.

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.

Minors: Boys younger than thirteen years old and girls younger than twelve are exempt from fasting. Unlike Yom Kippur, there is no need for children to fast for a few hours. The reason is that while we do educate our children to fast on Yom Kippur as part of a teshuba (=repentance) process, we do not educate our children to mourn for the Bet haMiqdash before they formally need to. Because hopefully this will be the last year we mourn for the Bet haMiqdash and training will be unnecessary.  

When allowed to eat during Tish'a be-Ab for health reasons, one should eat only whatever is necessary for his or her health, and not for pleasure or in excess.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What happened on Tish'a be-Ab?

Tish'a be-Ab is the Jewish National Day of Mourning. On Tish'a be-Ab every Jew must feel as if he or she is in mourning for his or her loved one.  Besides bringing ourselves to a mood of mourning, we must also reflect on our collective accountability for the tragic events which took place on Tish'a Be-Ab and the ways to amend our personal behavior (teshuba) to atone for our sins and the sins of our ancestors.  

On this day, five tragedies occurred to Am Israel

1. HET HAMERAGELIM (1312 BCE): The Jews in the desert accepted the slanderous report of the ten explorers. They cried for a whole night complaining to God for having taking them out of Egypt and hinting that the Almighty won't be able to bring them the Land of Israel. The generation who left Egypt was condemned to die in the desert. The night on which they cried, was Tish'a be-Ab.

2. HURBAN HABAYIT HARISHON (586 BCE): The First Temple was destroyed and burned on the ninth of Ab by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. Thousands of Jews were slaughtered, enslaved or exiled to the Babylonian empire. The story of the destruction of Jerusalem and its desolation is narrated in Megilat Ekha. 

3. HURBAN HABAYIT HASHENI (68 CE): The Second Temple was also destroyed on Tisha be-Ab. The Romans led by Titus destroyed the city. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed, sold into slavery or exiled.

4. NILKEDA BETAR (135 CE): The Bar Kokhba revolt was crushed by Roman Emperor Hadrian. The city of Betar (Sephardim call it "Bee-ter"), which was the Jews' last stand against the Romans, was captured by the enemy on Tish'a be-Ab. Over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered and their bodies left unburied.

5. NEHERASH HAHEKHAL: Around the same period, also on a ninth 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 Jerusalem was forbidden for Jews.

Click here to read
"Kamtza and Bar Kamtza" 
 the events that led to the destruction of the Second Temple. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Abstaining from meat during the nine days

"Once the month of Ab begins (=today) we minimize our happiness" mishenikhnas Ab, mema'atim besimha. These days are dedicated to prepare ourselves for mourning the destruction of our Bet haMiqdash. Therefore, in addition to the restrictions we mentioned for the three weeks (see this) we abstain ourselves from eating meat during these days. The shulhan 'arukh mentions that there are communities in which people do not consume meat and do not drink wine during the entire three weeks period while other communities restrict themselves only during the week of Tish'a be-Ab. In most Sephardic communities the tradition is to avoid eating meat during nine days; namely, from the second day of the month of Ab (tonight) until the day after Tish'a be-Ab (we will explain this later on).  Some Sephardic communities avoid eating meat also during the day of Rosh Hodesh.  Obviously, this restriction does not apply on Shabbat. On the contrary. It is forbidden to abstain from meat on Shabbat (except for health reasons).  Fish is allowed during the nine days. 

A person who is sick or weak, or a nursing woman during the first thirty days after giving birth, are allowed to eat meat during these. It would be preferable, if possible, if they eat chicken instead of red meat. 

If a Se'udat Mitzva, such as Berit Mila, takes place during these days it is allowed to serve meat in it. Yet, in many communities meat was not served at a Se'udat Mitzva because the Shehita was discontinued once the month of Ab began and meat therefore was not available. 

The Ashkenazi custom is to forbid shaving and cutting one's hair during the three weeks. In some Sephardic communities men do not get a haircut during the nine days.  In most Sephardic communities men do not shave and do not cut their hair only during the week of Tish'a be-Ab.

Every person should follow his or her community and family customs. 
Keep it delicious by pairing simple fishes with great strong flavors like tomato, garlic, mustard, and Parmesan cheese. by Elizabeth Kurtz, from Aish