Hebrew Calendar Date: The 9th of Av
Torah reference: Mishnah Ta’anit 4:6.
When it began:
According to Rabbinic tradition, the sin of the Ten Spies produced the annual fast day of Tisha B'Av. When the Israelites accepted the false report, they wept over the false belief that God was setting them up for defeat. The night that the people cried was the ninth of Av, which became a day of weeping and misfortune for all time. Tisha B’Av has since become the saddest day of the year for the Jewish people.
The fast commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples, which both occurred on Tisha B’Av about 655 years apart. The sages promise that those who mourn the destruction of The Temple will merit to celebrate its rebuilding. It is further promised to us that at time of the ultimate redemption, Tisha B’Av will become a great holiday.
In connection with the fall of Jerusalem, three other fast-days were established at the same time as the Ninth Day of Av: these were the Tenth of Tevet, when the siege began; the Seventeenth of Tammuz, when the first breach was made in the wall; and the Third of Tishrei, known as the Fast of Gedaliah, the day when Gedaliah was assassinated.
The three weeks leading up to Tisha B'Av are known as The Three Weeks, while the days leading up to Tisha B'Av are known as The Nine Days.
How it’s observed today:
Tisha B'Av is a 25 hour fast that begins at sunset the eve of Tisha B’Av and ends at nightfall the following day. On Tisha B'Av, as on Yom Kippur, these following prohibitions apply:
No eating or drinking.
No washing or bathing.
No application of creams or oils.
No wearing of (leather) shoes.
No engaging in intimacy.
Eating the Seuda Hamfseket, a meal immediately prior to the fast, consisting of a hard-boiled egg, and a piece of bread dipped into ashes.
Sitting on low stools or the floor as is done during Shiva, from the meal immediately before the fast until mid-day of the fast.
Electric lighting may be turned off or dimmed, during the evening services.
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.
People refrain from listening to music or bathing until the day after Tisha B’Av afternoon, since the Temple began burning on the 9th and finished on the 10th day.