Next Sunday is the fast of Tisha B’Av, the day we mourn the for many things, especially the loss of our Temples. This is a 25 hour long fast – it starts at sundown and goes through sundown the next day. It’s during the summer, so the day is often hot in addition to being long. Preparing ahead of time makes it easier to focus on the meaning of the day and get through it!
This year (2012), the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av) falls on Shabbat, but since we don’t fast on Shabbat except for Yom Kippur, it’s pushed off until motzei Shabbat and Sunday. There are some practical implications that you should check out so you know how your community handles them (here‘s a good article to get you started).
- Who: Because Tisha B’Av is a pushed off fast day, the rules on who may be a little different – this is something to ASK, though! (Our community already sent out an e-mail on this.)
- When: Obviously, Shabbat takes precedence, so you can’t cut it short to start your fast on time. Also, there are issues like Shabbat leather shoes vs. not preparing on Shabbat for something to come after Shabbat that need preparation and questions.
- What do you eat before: The usual seuda mafseket (separation meal, usually hard boiled eggs) eaten before the fast is one of mourning. And we don’t mourn on Shabbat, so it’s important to learn what you should do (we just don’t eat this meal, but have another, more Shabbosdik meal in its place).
- Havdallah: (OK, I know it’s not of one the common questions, but it fits into the theme, doesn’t it?) Since havdallah comes after Shabbat, and after Shabbat is the fast, you can’t drink the wine or smell the spices. Specifics may vary, but we do Havdallah after Tisha B’Av, and without spices.
Other practical things to consider and prepare:
- Fasters: Fasting is easier when you are well hydrated and moderately fed. Lessen or stop caffeine ahead of time. Drink lots of liquids, especially water, several days before and up to the fast. And don’t eat too much before the fast – it just seems to make it more uncomfortable. And stay cool, if you can. (Here are some tips to make fasting easier from the OU.)
- Seating: Normally able people don’t sit on comfy couches, at least until midday. That might mean the floor, or a couch or chair without a cushion, or a low bench…just think about it and get it ready.
- Shoes: In normal circumstances, we don’t wear leather shoes on Tisha B’Av. If everyone doesn’t have non-leather shoes, now would be a good time to get them – they come in handy in Tishrei, too!
- Clothes: We don’t wear freshly laundered clothes on Tisha B’Av (and during the 9 days for many people.) If you can, you should have some clothes “pre-worn” to wear on Tisha B’Av.
- Readings: We don’t normally study Torah, although which parts of which days we don’t varies. But many (all?) communities have a reading of Eicha (Lamentations) and/or Iyov (Job), and kinot are commonly read. Do you have copies of these available? Also, in the spirit of the day, there are moving reading you can find or more kid-friendly ones. Do you have some ready?
- Kids: Here is a kid friendly article on Tisha B’Av. While I know some families rely on low-key videos as the end of the fast draws nearer, here are some other ideas including easy food to prepare for your pre-fasters. You can find busy bag ideas here.
- Food: We don’t eat or drink on Tisha B’Av as a general rule. But we can and should prepare the meal for after the fast! Be sure to decide on something your family, particularly those fasting, will be happy with, and have those ingredients on hand. You’ll also need to consider what you’ll feed any younger kids. I find packed lunches are easiest for me – here is a post with more on that.
- Charity: It is customary to give extra charity on fast days.
Remember that the prohibition of laundry, music, haircuts, meat and wine, and bathing continue on until midday of the 10th of Av. Of course, in 2012, when Tisha B’Av is pushed back to the 10th of Av, things are again a little different. In some communities, haircuts, laundering and bathing are permitted Sunday night, but meat and wine are prohibited until Monday morning. This is something you should find out about ahead of time.
Here‘s a good breakdown of what rules apply when.
Last is the custom some hold to begin thoroughly cleaning the house after mid-day of Tisha B’Av in anticipation of the arrival of Meshiach!
May everyone have an easy and meaningful fast.