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Frequently Asked Question

What is Tisha b’Av?

The Tisha b’Av, also called the Ninth of Av, is a date that has taken on mythical and historical significance as a day on which calamity befalls the Jewish people. The second-most important fast day on the Hebrew calendar after Yom Kippur, Tisha b’Av is most closely associated with the date on which the two Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed.

How do we observe it?

Tisha b’Av is a fast day, which typically falls out in late July or early August. It is preceded by a three week period of low-level mourning, which commemorates the final siege of Jerusalem that led to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. The nine days preceding Tisha b’Av have additional restrictions attached to them, and the fast of Tisha b’Av is subject to many of the same restrictions as that of Yom Kippur, including bathing, sexual activity, perfume, and wearing leather. The Book of Lamentations, chanted in a unique melody, is special to the liturgy of the day, as are numerous dirges (kinot) that poetically chronicle historical instances of persecution of the Jewish people. Jewish summer camps will often conduct programming reflecting on the history and consequences of anti-Semitism such as the Holocaust.

What does it mean?

Rabbinic literary tradition regards Tisha b’Av as a day reserved for disaster in response to the children of Israel’s lack of faith following the Exodus from Egypt. According to the prophet Zechariah, the Ninth of Av will be a day of rejoicing at some point in the process of redemption.

Read more Tisha b'Av Calamities