Tisha B’av is a Jewish fast day which typically occurs on the ninth day of the month of AV – or if that happens to be the Shabbat – on the tenth day of AV. It is used to commemorate the five calamities that befell the Jewish people. On the Western calendar, this fasting day occurs either in July or August.
The five calamities that inspired this fast day – as stated by the Mishnah – include: 1) Punishment of the Israelites by God because they didn’t have faith in the promised land, 2) Destruction of King Solomon’s Temple in 587 BCE by the Babylonians, 3) Destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, 4) Destruction of the city of Betar and the subsequent death of over a half million Jews and 5) Plowing of the site of the temple by Turnus Rufus in 135 AD.
Customs and Observations
There are five prohibitions that are generally followed on Tisha B’av. These include : No food or drink, no marital relations, no bathing, no wearing of leather shoes and no application of oils or creams. While these are the five main prohibitions of this day, there are other customs that are also usually followed on this day. This includes avoiding work as much as possible, turning off or dimming electric lights and/or using candles for the primary light, sleeping on the floor and avoiding giving gifts on this day.
This fast day is not only a personal rite of mourning but also a communal remembrance that not only connects a person with their heritage but also to self reflection and piety.