On Tisha B’Av it is prohibited to eat, drink, bathe or wash, anoint oneself, cohabit, wear shoes or learn Torah (except those portions which sadden the heart – see below.)
The heart rejoices from the study of Torah, as it says (Tehillim 19:9): “The orders of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart.” Therefore, learning Torah on Tisha B’Av is prohibited – except for those portions and topics which are relevant to Tisha B’Av and mourning.
On Tisha B’Av one may learn from the following sefarim (among others):
- Tanach: Iyov, parts of Yirmiyahu, Eicha and its Midrashim
- Gemara: Parts of Moed Katan, Gittin Sanhedrin and Yerushalmi Taanis
- Halachos of Tisha B’Av and of Aveilus (mourning)
Not only is learning Torah orally prohibited on Tisha B’Av, but even “thinking-in-learning” and writing ‘chidushei Torah’ (one’s own Torah thoughts) – because one derives pleasure from it.
One who will read the Torah may prepare the reading, both for the morning and for Mincha.
Exceptions to fasting
Ed. Before reading the halacha about fasting on Tisha B’Av, it is helpful to review the following halacha concerning the minor fasts – i.e. 10th of Teves, 17 of Tamuz, Tzom Gedalia – from a previous lesson): “Serious exceptions to the fasts are granted, as needed, to pregnant and nursing mothers and people who are ill (although not dangerously so, Heb. ‘choleh she’ein bo sakana’). Ed. A person should always consult a halachic authority whenever there are questions about fasting, especially on these “minor” fasts.”
Now we resume our lesson concerning Tisha B’Av:
On Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av pregnant and nursing women are required to fast the entire day even if they are suffering – with this difference: On Yom Kippur a person is required to fast even if he is ill (unless there is possible danger to life). On Tisha B’Av, if a person is suffering greatly or is old or weak and may become ill – even if there is no danger to life – he should not fast! A person with only a headache or similar minor discomfort, however, is required to fast.
If a nursing woman’s fasting will harm the infant (e.g. the infant is ill and a physician says that the fast will adversely affect the infant, the milk will be inadequate for the child and the child refuses to eat or nurse from others), she may eat or drink as required. Where there is any question, a Rav should be consulted. If a person is not required to fast because it is dangerous, he is prohibited from fasting!
During the first seven days after childbirth, a woman may not fast. Between seven and thirty days, some Poskim hold that if she is not suffering greatly she should fast. Many Poskim hold that nowadays women are weak until thirty days after childbirth and should not fast. A woman may conduct herself according to these Poskim. After thirty days she is considered as recuperated, unless her individual condition is different.
Washing / bathing
We have learned that during the Nine Days bathing for pleasure is prohibited even in cold water. We have also learned that this applies to the rest of the body. Washing one’s face, hands and feet with cold water is permissible during the Nine Days. On Tisha B’Av all bathing or washing for pleasure is prohibited. Therefore, one may not even place his finger or any other part of his body into water for pleasure. This is prohibited whether the water is hot or cold.
Since only washing for pleasure is prohibited, he may wash his hands or other portions of his body if they are dirtied or stained. He may only wash the dirty or soiled portions, but not beyond the soiled area.
In the morning or upon awakening, one may wash his hands in the usual manner (‘negel vasser’ - i.e. three times alternately on each hand). However, he should be careful not to wash further than the joints at the end of his fingers. While his hands are still moist after drying them, he may pass them over his eyes [or hands, face or feet]. This is permissible since his hands are not sufficiently damp to wet something else substantially.
Washing after the bathroom is permissible. Here also he should not wash further than the joints at the end of his fingers. If he touched covered portions of his body – especially the sweaty portions or the like – since they are considered like soiled portions of his body, it is permissible to wash his hands until the joints. Likewise, washing his hands for davening is permissible until the joints. Women who are cooking or are preparing food on Tisha B’Av may wash a piece of meat and the like – if necessary – even if their hands get wet.
Anointing / smearing oils
Anointing oneself for pleasure on Tisha B’Av is prohibited. Included in this is rubbing or applying onto one’s body any substance – liquid or solid – commonly applied to the body (e.g. oil, soap, alcohol, hair tonic or cream, ointment, perfume and the like.) However, it is permissible for medical reasons. Therefore, if a person has a skin condition which requires application of an ointment and the like, it is permissible even if postponement presents no danger. Although the use of perfumes on the body is prohibited, the use of a deodorant to remove a bad odor is permissible.
Most Poskim hold that the prohibition against wearing shoes applies only to shoes made of leather. Shoes made of cloth (e.g. canvas sneakers), wood, rubber, plastic and the like are permissible. Even if a shoe is made partially of leather, it is prohibited. Even if it is made of wood or other material and covered with leather, it is prohibited. One who has to walk a long distance or over stones or through mud, and walking without shoes would be painful [where other types of shoes are not available] wearing leather shoes would be permissible. Here also they must be removed once arriving in a place where they are no longer needed.
(Note: Whenever one thinks he might have to violate a Tisha B’Av prohibition due to medical reasons, a Rav should be consulted.)
A woman whose mikvah-immersion would occur on Tisha B’Av may not immerse – since relations are prohibited. One should conduct himself with his wife on Tisha B’Av evening the way he would during her days of Nidah.
Greeting On Tisha B’Av we are considered as mourners for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash; therefore, we consider ourselves similar to a mourner during shiva. Greeting someone on Tisha B’Av is prohibited. Not only inquiring after another’s well-being is prohibited, but even greeting a person with “Good morning!” and the like is also prohibited. One who is greeted on Tisha B’Av should respond softly, to show that greeting is prohibited. Gifts should not be sent on Tisha B’Av, with the exception of someone is need (e.g. tzedaka to the poor). Levity and merriment are prohibited. Even taking a walk or a trip for pleasure is prohibited, as is engaging in any activity which may divert one’s mind from mourning. Therefore one should not indulge in idle conversation.
During the evening of Tisha B’Av and the morning until chatzos (halachic mid-day), sitting on a bench or chair is prohibited if it is three tefachim (hand-bradths – approximately 12 inches) or higher. One may sit on the floor – even on a cushion or on a low bench or chair.
Our minhag is that any type of work which requires time to do is prohibited on the evening of Tisha B’av and the morning until chatzos. This applies both to skilled and unskilled labor. The reason for this minhag is to avoid diverting one’s mind from mourning. Therefore, work which does not take time to do (e.g. lighting candles, tying a knot) is permissible. Even housework (e.g. making beds, sweeping) should be postponed until after chatzos. Similarly, the minhag is to prohibit business transactions (e.g. buying, selling) until chatzos. If at all possible, one should avoid doing work and conducting business activities the entire day. A non-Jew may engage in work and business on behalf of a Jew on Tisha B’Av, even in the house of a Jew. However, work which is done publicly (e.g. building, house painting – Ed. the type that is permissible during the Nine Days) is prohibited. If the work is of a nature that should he not do it on Tisha B’Av, financial loss will be incurred, it is permissible. However, it should – wherever possible – be done by a non-Jew or at least postponed until after chatzos.
One who engages in business or work where it is prohibited will not see a blessing from this melacha. One who eats or drinks on Tisha B’Av (i.e. without halachic sanction) will not be among those privileged to participate in rejoicing over Jerusalem. Whoever mourns properly over Jerusalem will be rewarded by experiencing its rejoicing!
I hope these lessons are worth waiting for. Thanks for waiting!