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 coincidentally have occurred on the ninth of Av. Tisha B'Av means
"the ninth (day) of Av." It usually occurs during 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 C.E.).
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.
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 new clothing.
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 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.