This week, we have 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 (2013), the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av) falls on Monday, July 15 (evening) and Tuesday, July 16. Here are some practical things to consider
- The meal before: make it filling, but not too salty or spicy, and be sure to leave enough time to have everyone finish. Protein is long lasting, and liquids are good to “stock you up,” so to speak. But since meat is off limits leading up to Tisha B’Av (except for Shabbat!), fish is served by some and not others, and some dairy (cheese) foods can make you thirsty. So what do you serve? Soups, lentils, beans and rice, pasta, blintzes, eggs, fruit…
- The usual seuda mafseket eaten before the fast is one of mourning. It’s a separation meal, usually hard boiled eggs, bread, and water, although some people make ashes from burned bread and have those as well).
- 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.
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 Mashiach!
May everyone have an easy and meaningful fast.