What All Are We Supposed to Do on Tish’ah Be’Av (Beginning July 21)? Originally published July 13-14, 2018

We have heard why we observe Tish’ah Be’Av, the day in history on which so many negative things have befallen us.

But sometimes we lose track of all that we are supposed to do in observance.

For one thing, this is the only other full-day fast - besides Yom Kippur - that we observe.  This year we begin immediately as Shabbat ends on July 21st.  We eat dinner as Shabbat is ending, and we must be done before sunset.  Then we kick off our leather and don cloth footwear. 

We observe minimalism.  We effectively do nothing but mourn. 

We do not eat or drink.  We do not wear leather.  We do not bathe (except hand washing or basic toilet use).  We don’t wear makeup, lotion, etc.  We don’t study, not even Jewish religious texts except those that are read on Tish’ah Be’Av.  We do not even greet one another, and especially not with the word “Shalom.” 

In the shul, we will remove the velour cover on the shulhan, and may opt to sit on the floor or low chairs.  Congregations also remove the curtains from the ark if they are removable.  The lights are kept low.

The mournful chanting  of Megillat Eykhah - Lamentations - is done sitting on the floor or low benches or seats.  The chant is done in a special cantillation.  In our community, we will share the reading among the various congregations participating in the community-wide observance.  When the reader reaches the penultimate verse, 5:21, the congregation chants along.  Then the reader reads the last verse, followed by the congregation chanting the penultimate verse again, which is then repeated by the reader.

The reading is then usually followed by poems of lamentation, kinnot.  The mood may be described as somber.

In the morning, we still observe minimalism.  We don’t wear tallit or tefillin for the morning service, but we do so for the Minhah service at the end of Tish’ah Be’Av.  Special portions of the Torah are read at each time, and a tallit should be placed under the Torah on top of the bare shulhan.  The services will be chanted in a subdued, mournful mode.

At that ending evening service, if there are six or more individuals still fasting, the appropriate part of the Torah may be read.  (We are accepting pledges to fast and then attend at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 22nd.  Please call 412-421-2288 x112.)

Tish’ah Be’Av is a day of mourning, grieving together as a community.  It is another important day to be at shul.