Today is Tisha B'Av - What does that mean?

Tisha B'Av translates as 9th day of Av. To understand the 9th of something one must understand the something. What is Av? Av is the 5th Hebrew Month counting from Nissan. It is the 11th Hebrew month counting from Rosh HaShanah. We will discuss both of these aspects below.

Initially it is important to have a concept of the meaning and energy of the month of Av.

    Blog for the Energy of Chodesh Av

    As discussed on the blog 5 relates to the Sefirah of Hod when counting from Chesed which is the highest of the 7 lower Sefirot. Hod, which translates as beauty, is the essential energy of appreciation and thankfulness. Hod also relates to the idea of spiritual manifestation or Malchut of the spiritual frame. This is showing us all of the energy of a spiritual concept without being limited by the physical world of illusion.

    The energy of 11 is connected both to the Incense on the positive side and the negative Tree on the negative side. Actually, they are both unified although it is very difficult to accept and perceive this truth. There are 11 components to the Incense. The Hebrew word Ketoret which translates as Incense comes from the shoresh or root meaning "to get close." Why are there 11 components of the Incense? To show the complete structure of the 10 Sefirot plus the negative system as the 11th component. On the negative Tree there are 11 aspects as well. The 10 negative Sefirot plus the spark of Light that is caught in the Klipot or the negative system. Do you see the similarity?

    Now that we have some connection to the month of Av let us look at the meaning of the 9th day. Nine connects to the Sefirah of Wisdom or Chochmah when we count up from the bottom and the Sefirah of Yesod when we count down from Keter. Yesod is thought of as the sexual parts and also the support structure similar to the spine. Actually the root of Yesod is Creativity.

    The male sexual organ has two components the Crown and the Stem. The male sexual organ also demonstrates this duality by bringing forth the highest revelation of Light - the ability to bring forth a child by issuing sperm and the lowest by spewing forth waste products which we call urine. Internally these are two different systems. Yet they issue form the same orifice. This is the energy of Yesod. One of our tasks is to unify these two different essences in our lives. This day of Tisha B'Av is one of these opportunities during the year to do this.


    According to Kabbalah, every day of the lunar year has a specific energy, a specific Angel, and a specific negative Mitzvah. The purpose of this Angel is to incite people to actually do the negative Mitzvah. The effect of this is to transfer the energy that the human could have received for not doing this Mitzvah to the Angel. This is his motivation for causing you to do the negative action.

    The Mitzvah that is involved with the 9th of Av is the Mitzvah of "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself." Of course. this is the negative of the positive Mitzvah of Vayahavta Lerayacha Camocha - Love Your Neighbor As Yourself. The Angel who receives the energy when he is successful in having you do something to another person that you would not want to have done to you is the Satan.

    Please note that almost everything comes under this set of conditions. As an example, there are people who would not want you to pray during a day since they want you to do something else with them. Thus praying comes under this do not do Mitzvah. Studying is also under this do not do Mitzvah since sometimes someone wants you to do something with them while you are studying. If one thinks about this every action that someone does at any time there is always a connection to this do not do to someone else what you do not want done to you. This is one of the reasons that the 5 major restrictions are recommended by the Kabbalists to apply to this day.

    What are the 5 Restrictions?

    1. Do not eat or drink. Why are we afflicting ourselves with this restriction? Don't we want all of our neighbors to eat and enjoy their food during this day? The answer is yes we do except that i may want them to play at the moment they are wanting to eat. That is why we are told to fast. The energy from these meals will go to the Satan as part of the spiritual system described above. Of course that is why we do not eat that day - to deny Satan any energy from our action of eating.

    2. Do not have sexual intimacy during this day. Why not? Do we not want our neighbor to enjoy his sexual intimacy? Of course we do; yet there are times when the other partner is not in the mood. Thus this energy from this action would go to Satan this day. To avoid this we avoid sexual intimacy this day.

    3. Do not wash your bodies. This is something that gives pleasure to the body. Any form of pleasure is causing the energy to go to the Satan. Thus we avoid this action. Of course we wish pleasure to all people; yet there can be times when we do not wish pleasure that is not earned by the person.

    4. Do not perfume or oil your bodies. This is again giving pleasure to the body and the sense of smell.

    5. Do not wear leather shoes. Many people have great difficulty understanding this restriction. Leather comes from a cow. The skin of a cow has a large desire to receive. We do not want to strengthen the desire to receive on this day since that will give additional energy to Satan. That is the reason for this restriction.

    Additional Customs

    Torah study is forbidden on Tisha B'av (as it is considered a spiritually enjoyable activity), except for the study of distressing texts such as the Book of Lamentations, the Book of Job, portions of Jeremiah and chapters of the Talmud that discuss the laws of mourning.

    In synagogue, prior to the commencement of the evening services, the parochet is removed or drawn aside lasting until after the fast. The parochet is the "curtain" or "screen" that normally covers and adorns the Aron Kodesh ("Torah Ark") containing the Sifrei Torah ("Torah scrolls"). This is to symbolize the revelation of the Mashiach as the 9th of Av is his birthday.

    According to the Rema it is customary to sit on low stools or on the floor, as is done during shiva from the meal immediately before the fast, the seudah hamafseket, until noon. It is customary to eat a hard boiled egg, and also a piece of bread dipped into ashes during this meal. The Beit Yosef rules that the custom extends until one prays Mincha (the afternoon prayer). The sitting on the floor is to "ground" the energy of the desire to receive for oneself alone. The non Kabbalistic explanation is we are in mourning and that is a sufficient reason to do this.

    If possible, work is avoided during this period. Electric lighting may be turned off or dimmed, and kinnot recited by candlelight. Some sleep on the floor or modify their normal sleeping routine, by sleeping without a pillow, for instance. People refrain from greeting each other or sending gifts on this day. Old prayer books and Torah scrolls are often buried on this day.

    The custom is to not put on Tefillin for morning services (Shacharit) of Tisha B'Av, and not a Tallit, rather only wear the personal tallit kattan without a blessing. At Mincha services Tzitzit and tefillin are worn with proper blessings prior to donning them. The Kabbalists who view this day as a day of celebration do wear Tallit and Tefillin as on a normal day.

    End of fast

    Although the fast ends at nightfall, according to tradition, the Temple continued burning throughout the night and for most of the following day, the tenth of Av. It is therefore customary to refrain from eating meat, drinking wine, bathing, cutting hair, doing laundry, listening to music, making a shehechiyanu blessing until midday (chatzos) of the following day.

    When Tisha B'Av begins on Saturday night, the Havdalah ritual at the end of Shabbat is truncated (using a candle but no spices), without a blessing over wine. After Tisha B'Av ends on Sunday evening, another Havdalah ceremony is performed with wine (without candle or spices).

    The laws of Tisha B'Av are recorded in the Shulchan Aruch (Literally "The Set Table," a code of Jewish Law") Orach Chayim 552-557.

    Changes in the Services

    The scroll of Eicha (Lamentations) is read in synagogue during the evening services. Some also read it the next morning. This scroll is a prophecy by Jeremiah of the coming destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem.

    In addition, most of the morning is spent chanting or reading Kinnot, most bewailing the loss of the Temples and the subsequent persecutions, but many others referring to post-exile disasters. These later kinnot were composed by various poets (often prominent rabbis) who had either suffered in the events mentioned or relate received reports. Important kinnot were composed by Elazar ha-Kalir and Rabbi Judah ha-Levi. After the Holocaust, kinnot were composed by the German-born Rabbi Shimon Schwab (in 1959, at the request of Rabbi Joseph Breuer) and by Rabbi Solomon Halberstam, leader of the Bobov Hasidim (in 1984).

    Since Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza, some right wing segments of the Religious Zionist community have begun to recite kinnot to commemorate the expulsion of Jewish settlers from Gush Katif and northern West Bank on the day after Tisha B'Av, in 2005.

    In many Sephardic congregations the Book of Job is read on the morning of Tisha B'Av.

    At the Mincha service, Ashkenazim add a paragraph that begins Nachem ("Console...") to the conclusion of the blessing Boneh Yerushalayim ("Who builds Jerusalem") recited during the Amidah. The prayer elaborates the mournful state of the Temple in Jerusalem. The concluding signature of the blessing is also extended to say "Blessed are You, O Lord, Who consoles Zion and builds Jerusalem."

    Various modern orthodox rabbis have proposed amending Nachem as its wording no longer reflects the existence of a rebuilt Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, for example, issued a revised wording of the prayer and Rabbi Hayim David HaLevi proposed putting the prayer's verbs relating to the Temple's destruction into the past tense. However, such proposals have not been widely adopted.

    i included the above comments so that you begin to realize that Jewish Prayer is not static but designed to change over time to reflect the consciousness of the generation. This is not well understood by the teachings of the religious community.

    History of this Day

    This day is / was the most intense positive energy day of the year. Or it was supposed to be. This is when the Spies sent by Moshe returned from the Tour of the Land. They reported Loshon Harah - Evil Speech instead of reporting a happy positive review of the Land. Yet that was not the full extent of the problem that happened that day. The true problem was that the People allowed themselves to be persuaded to accept this Loshon Harah. That caused the energy of the day to be transformed from positive to negative. So throughout history negative things happen on this day. Here are some examples:

    According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6), five specific events occurred on the ninth of Av that warrant fasting:

    1. The twelve spies sent by Moses to observe the land of Canaan returned from their mission. Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, brought a positive report, while the others spoke disparagingly about the land. The majority report caused the Children of Israel to cry, panic and despair of ever entering the "Promised Land." For this, they were punished by God that their generation would not enter the land. Because of the Israelites' lack of faith, God decreed that for all generations this date would become one of crying and misfortune for their descendants. (See Numbers 13; Numbers 14).

    2. The First Temple built by King Solomon and the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians led by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE (3175 HC) after the siege in 587 and the Judeans were sent into the Babylonian exile.

    3. The Second Temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah was destroyed by the Romans in August 70 CE (3830 HC), scattering the people of Judea and commencing the Jewish exile from the Holy Land. According to the Talmud in tractate Ta'anit, the destruction of the Second Temple began on the Ninth of Av and the Temple continued to burn throughout the Tenth of Av. Although the fire diminished at noon on the Tenth.

    4. The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba's revolt and destroyed the city of Betar, killing over 100,000 Jews on July 8, 132 CE (Av 9, 3892 HC).

    5. Following the Bar Kokhba revolt, Roman commander Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the Temple and the surrounding area in 133 CE.

    There is a relationship between these 5 events and the 5 restrictions which relate to the 5 worlds.

    Other Calamities that occurred on the same date in different years.

    Tisha B'Av has also come to be used as a date of mourning for other events that happened on different dates as well.

    The First Crusade officially commenced on August 15, 1096 (Av 9, 4856 HC), killing 10,000 Jews in its first month and destroying Jewish communities in France and the Rhineland. A grand total of 1.2 million Jews were killed by this crusade that started on the 9th of Av.

    The Jews were expelled from England on July 25, 1290 (Av 9, 5050 HC).

    The Jews were expelled from France on July 21, 1306 (Av 9, 5066 HC).

    The Jews were expelled from Spain on July 31, 1492 (Av 8-9, 5252 HC). This was also the launch date for Christopher Columbus search for the route to the East. The result was the revealment of the Americas which proved to be the saving of the Jewish World after the Shoah. Thus, we can see the dual energy of Tisha B'Av as being the BirthDate of Mashiach.

    On August 2, 1941, (Av 9, 5701 HC) SS commander Heinrich Himmler formally received approval from the Nazi Party for "The Final Solution." Almost 50% of the Jews on the face of the earth were captured and killed at that time.

    On the 9th of Av, 5702 HC (July 23, 1942), the mass deportation began of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto en route to Treblinka.

    Most religious communities use Tisha B'Av to mourn the 6,000,000 Jews who perished in the Holocaust, including special kinnot composed for this purpose (see the main kinnot article) (in contradistinction to the secular Holocaust Memorial Days in the Hebrew Month of Iyar.)

    On the 10th of Av two events took place:

    AMIA bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires took place, killing 85 and injuring 300 on Monday, July 18, 1994, 10th of Av, 5754 HC.

    Israel's unilateral disengagement plan evicted 8,000 Israelis from Gaza.

    To understand the relationship between the 9th and 10th days of Av we need to understand the cycle and dates of the destruction of the Temples. On the 10th of Tevet the walls of Jerusalem were surrounded by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. 18 months later on the 17th day of Tammuz the walls of Jerusalem were pieced by the army of Nebuchadnezzar. Three weeks later on the 9th of Av the walls of the Temple were pierced and the fire started to burn the Temple at noon on the 10th of Av. This was the sign that the Tribe of Judah would not be destroyed since HaShem allowed his House to be burned instead of the people.

    Kabbalistic Understanding of this Day

    The Kabbalists wear white on this day since they consider it a Holiday. It is the birthdate of Mashiach and there is no destruction of the Temple. This world is an illusion. In the reality world the Temple was never built by man. It was always waiting to be built by HaShem when he determines the time is right. A true Kabbalist can see the Temple already in this physical world at the same time he sees the illusion of the current structures in its place.

    The Kabbalists does not mourn the destruction of the Temple. He mourns the issue that the Temple has not yet been revealed in Jerusalem. He awaits that revelation and celebrates the day of its coming. That is the metaphorical relationship to the birth date of Mashiach.

    There are 5 chapters in the scroll of Eicha - Lamentations. Each of these chapters follow the order of the Alef Bet. The last chapter appears not to follow the Alef Bet. These 5 chapters relate to the worlds. Since Malchut is not yet cleansed, the order of the Alef bet is not followed. Yet it is actually being followed for those who can see through the illusion. There is much to be learned from this day and its relationship to the Holiday 6 days later called Tu B'Av.