Jewish Fast Days and Jerusalem
By Eliezer Cohen
This year the Seventeenth of the Jewish month of Tamuz falls on Thursday,
July 1, 1999. The Ninth of the Jewish month of Av fall this year on
Wednesday, July 14, 1999.
The period of time marked by the Seventeenth of Tamuz until the
Ninth of Av is a time of increased mourning for the destroyed
Temple in Jerusalem and a lessening in activities which bring
about joyfulness. Both the Seventeenth of Tamuz and the Ninth
of Av are fast days, although the severity of the fasts are different
between the two days.
Among the many catastrophes that took place on The Seventeenth
of Tamuz in time and history, were that the walls of the ancient
city of Jerusalem, during the time of the second temple, were
breached by the Roman enemy. This marked the beginning of the
end to the second commonwealth of the Jewish people in their own
homeland, and the beginning of a two thousand year exile.
The fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz begins upon daylight and
concludes with the day's end. Sick and ill people are excused
from fasting, but should not partake of luxurious foods and drink.
Children under the age of bar and bat-mitzvah are exempted from
The three week period between the Seventeenth of Tamuz and the
Ninth of Av is a period of increased solemnity. No marriages take
place, we refrain from hearing music, haircuts and pleasure trips.
It is also customary not to wear a new garment at this time since
it brings one pleasure. It is considered a time of bad mazel
[luck], therefore we refrain from doing activities that could
be affected by poor timing.
The month of Av is the month following the month of Tamuz. Once
the month of Av begins, the solemnity increases. Nothing that
may lead to happiness may be done. We refrain from planting, building,
purchasing things that will give us pleasure unless that is absolutely
necessary. We stop making and making clothing and refrain from
eating meat and drinking wine with the exception of the Sabbath
and other ceremonial meals, such as a circumcision. Many refrain
from taking hot baths and washing laundry.
During the week in which the Ninth of Av falls, cutting the fingernails
is avoided unless it is for a religious obligation.
The day preceding the Ninth of Av is a day for introspection about
one's personal self in relation to the building of the temple.
Many study those tracts that deal with the destruction of the
Temple and the laws of the fast. The last meal before the fast
is eaten late in the afternoon. The meal generally consists of
bread and an egg dipped in ashes. The meal is not eaten at a table
but on the floor in order to arouse the feelings of mourning for
the Temple. After the meal leather shoes are removed, since they
are considered to be a comfort. The fast of the Ninth of Av begins
with the sunset and lasts till the end of the following day.
The Ninth of Av is the day on which the Temple was destroyed.This
marked the complete end to our freedom in our land and freedom
to serve our G-d with out encumberment. From this day after, we
were slaughtered and sold as slaves, exiled and dispersed amongst
the nations. This year, 1999, marks 1929 years since we are with
out our Temple and have been exiled from our land.
At night the Book of Lamentations is read by a low candle light,
in a low and mournful voice. Additional lamentations, called kinot,
are said at night and also the following day. Greeting of peace
between friends and neighbors are not exchanged on this day. It
is the custom not to sit on a chair until the afternoon. When
going to sleep at night it is customary to deprive one's self
of some comfort, such as sleeping with out a pillow.
Work is not recommended on this day, for those who will occupy
themselves in business and not mourn for our collective loss.
They will certainly see no blessing in the fruits of the work
done on this day. In the afternoon of the Ninth of Av, a meal
may be prepared for the evening.
The following day is a partial day of mourning since the fire
in the Temple was not yet extinguished. We wait until mid day
before resuming all normal activities. May we all merit through
the observance of our traditional mourning customs, the rebuilding
of our Temple, where we once again will see with our eyes of flesh
and blood the presence of the Almighty G-d.
from the July 1999 Edition of the Jewish Magazine