When the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat

The 9th of Av is on Shabbat this year so that actual fasting is from Saturday night to Sunday night and there are special laws in effect in addition to the regular ones.

Rabbi Baruch Efrati

Judaism הרב ברוך אפרתי
הרב ברוך אפרתי

Note: Sephardi and Ashkenazi customs are delineated when they are not the same.

Note: The fast is moved to Sunday from the Sabbath day, therefore regarding this year's fast: someone who is even slightly ill may eat and drink a woman who has given birth within the last 24 months and feels weak may eat and drink. Details below.

The fast of the 9th of Av is meant to cause us to feel the pain of the Temple's destruction and to alert us to the pressing importance of building our land and nation, while strengthening our longing for rebuilding the Temple and our sorrow that it is still in ruins.

When we mourn the Temple, we include our personal pain, asking Hashem to take us out of darkness to light, as in the verse "a new light shines on Zion."

There are five things from which we abstain on the fast:

1. Food and drink;  2. Washing or bathing; 3.Using creams; 4. Intimate relations and physical affection; 5. wearing leather shoes.

1. Food and drink:  

A healthy person who feels weak while fasting should continue to fast although he does not feel well. It is preferable to lie in bed and continue fasting, rather than to break the fast and attend prayers in the synagogue.

A sick person who is endangered, or might be endangered by fasting, must not fast.

A sick person who is not in danger, such as someone who has a very bad headache or has fever and is dizzy, or someone who is too weak to get out of bed, or someone with a longstanding eye infection, but who wants to eat or must eat in order to get well – is allowed to eat and drink and does not have to worry about measuring out halakhic amounts (a shiur).

Pregnant and nursing women begin the fast as usual, but if they feel weak, or have headaches or pain in the abdomen, they may eat and drink immediately, without measuring halakhic amounts.

This year the fast has been moved to Sunday as the 9th of Av is on Shabbat, therefore one can be lenient and even a small amount of weakness is enough [to break the fast] in the case of pregnant and nursing women.

If a nursing woman fears a lessening of breast milk (even without a headache or weakness and even if the infant can be given substitutes), it is better to take the lenient view and eat and drink.

(Source for the above: Halakhic decisions of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zts"l)

If a pregnant woman has been instructed by her physician to refrain from fasting for medical reasons, he should be listened to and she should not fast. Nowadays, all halakhic decisors (Ashkenazi and Sephardi) agree that a woman should not fast during the first thirty days after childbirth.

A sick person and a postnatal woman who are not fasting, must say the Havdala prayer at the end of Shabbat on beer or natural orange juice, and on wine if there is no beer or orange juice available. A woman should not recite the blessing on the creation of fire.

2. Using creams and lotions:

It is permitted to use deodorants and moisturizers, as well as anti-mosquito preparations at night, but makeup is forbidden.

3. Washing and bathing:

If one's face is very dirty, it may be washed. Freshening up is forbidden.

4. Marital relations:

Physical intimacy is forbidden and the couple should act as if the woman is ritually unclean (no physical contact at night).

Halakhic checks in preparation for immersion which is to take place at the end of the fast and the like – should be done before the fast with a slight washing at the fast's end prior to actual immersion, or alternatively, all preparations can be done after the fast.

5. Wearing leather shoes:

In principle, crocs and "shoresh" sandals may be worn, even though they are meant to be comfortable (although there are halakhic decisors who forbid plastic shoes if they are comfortable) but leather shoes are entirely forbidden.

6. Sitting on the ground:

From halakhic midday (chatsot) it is the custom to be lenient and allow sitting on a chair. Before then, one can sit on a step, a low stool, or on the floor. Standing when on a bus is preferred, but if one feels weak, sitting is permitted.

7. Torah study:

Torah study is not allowed, because of the verse "G-d's laws gladden the heart", excepting topics that have to do with the day's mourning – and even they should not be studied in depth. There is no Daf Yomi. Books about issues of faith may be read because they are the fulfillment of "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" which is relevant on the fast.

8. Work:

One must not work on the fast, and whoever does so sees no blessing in his work. From midday on, one can be lenient and work if the work is of utmost importance.

9. Laws for this year's fast:

On Shabbat (which is the real 9th of Av this year) one can study Torah as usual even after Halakhic midday, sing zmirot and other holy songs at the table as usual. Sephardic custom allows marital relations, while Ashkenazim permit them only if ritual immersion is on Friday night.  Ashkenazim say the Av Harachamim prayer before Mussaf. The Afternoon Prayer omits Tzidkatcha.

The afternoon meal (seuda shlishit) is the same as on a regular Shabbat (including meat and wine if desired). One can rinse one's mouth before sunset without it being considered preparation on Shabbat for the weekdays, but one may not take a pill to ease the fast as that is considered preparation for the next day. The fast begins at halakhic sunset (shkia). About half an hour after sunset we recite the shortened Havdala prayer ("Blessed is He who separates the holy from the non-holy" "baruch hamavdil bein kodesh lechol"), remove leather shoes and change from Shabbat to everyday clothes.

Evening prayers:

Ashkenazim remove the parochet (curtain) from the Holy Ark and pray in low voices. The Silent Prayer with the Ata Chonantanu said in Saturday evening prayers, as well as Kaddish Titkabel, are as usual. Only the minimum number of candles needed for reading are kindled and the blessing "He Who creates fire" is said. The congregation sits on the ground and reads the Megilla of Eicha (Lamentations) in a low voice with the traditional melody. Kinot (elegies), Veata Kadosh and Aleinu prayers follow.

Sephardim remove the parochet and some congregations read the Torah portion of Haazinu. The order of the service is Aneinu ("respond to us"), the Ata Chonantanu prayer added to the silent prayer, Viyehi Noam, kindling a candle for the "He Who created fire" blessing, the Megilla of Eicha without blessings, kinot, Ata Kadosh, the special Kaddish. Lights are turned off and the number of years since the destruction of the Temple is announced, followed by Shir Hamaalot, Aleinu.

Morning prayers:

Hands may be washed up to the ends of the fingers (allowed after using the bathroom as well), wiped so that they stay damp and then used to go over one's eyes. The "sheasa li kol tzorchi" – "He fulfills all my needs" blessing is not said by most congregations. Tallit and tefillin are not worn (some Sephardic congregations do so), Tzitzit (fringed garments) are worn without the blessing (later in the day when the tallit is put on, the blessing said covers both tallit and fringes). When praying, the incense and daily sacrifice sections are omitted, but "The Thanksgiving Psalm (Mizmor Letodah) " is recited. Sephardim recite the sacrifices.

In the Silent Prayer one omits the Nachem ("comfort us") prayer and the cantor says Aneinu  between two of the Silent Prayer blessings when repeating them aloud. Sephardim also say Aneinu while saying the Silent Prayer to themselves.

Ashkenazim omit the Priestly Blessings and its substitute prayer. The Sephardim say the Priestly Blessings.

The Avinu Malkenu prayer and Tachanun are not said. After the cantor repeats the Silent Prayer (Sephardim add several kinot here), the Torah portion from Ve'etchanan, "When you give birth to sons" is read with three people called to the Torah and the third gets maftir.  Half-kaddish is said, and the Haftarah, "Asof Asifem" up to "Neum Hashem" is read, with the blessings ending at "Magen David." The Torah is returned to the Ark and kinot are chanted.

At the end of kinot:

Ashkenazim say Ashrei, Ata Kadosh, omit Lamnatzeach, skip the verse "Veani Zot Briti", complete Kaddish without Titkabel, then Aleinu, Mourner's Kaddish. The daily psalm is omitted, as is the Pitum Haktoret prayer.

Sephardim continue in everyday fashion after the Haftorah reading, but say Al Naharot Bavel (By the Rivers of Babylon) instead of Tefilla LeDavid, Kaddish with Titkabel, chant kinot after removing tefillin, followed by the Special Kaddish (Atid Leatchadta).

On this day we do not greet one another as usual, we walk as if reprimanded, and someone who says "shalom" by mistake is responded to with a sign.

Afternoon prayers:

Those who did not wear a tallit or put on tefillin in the morning don them and recite the blessings. Ashkenazim say the daily psalm and all the prayers they omitted in the morning prayers, followed by Ashrei, half-Kaddish, the Torah reading of "Vayichal" with three people called to the Torah and "Dirshu Hashem " for the Haftarah as is the custom on public fast days. Half-kaddish is said before the Silent Prayer.

In the Silent Prayer, one says Nachem in the Boneh Yerushalayim blessing and Aneinu in the Shomea Tefilla blessing.  When repeating the Silent Prayer, the cantor says Aneinu as a blessing on its own between the Goel and Refaenu blessings and Nachem in the Boneh Yerushalayim blessing (the words are not changed, one must think of the desolate and humiliated city while reciting the phrase about the city of David and the Temple Mount.) If one forgets to say Nachem at the designated place, it can be said without the ending during Shema Tefilla after Aneinu or before Vetechezena, Ve'al Kulam or Elokai Netzor, but if one totally forgets to say it and has reached the end of the Silent Prayer, it is not repeated.

Priestly blessing: if the service is held after plag hamincha (1.25 hours before sunset) or during Mincha Gedola (from half an hour after halakhic midday), there is no priestly blessing and Avinu Malkenu is not recited.

Evening Prayer:

After the service, Havdala is said on wine only and the prayer for sanctifying the new moon is said.

Both Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities allow bathing, haircuts and laundry immediately after the fast this year (ordinarily one waits until the tenth of Av after midday) as it is a day later than the actual date.

"And though we were destroyed and the world destroyed with us                                                                                                                                    By baseless hatred
We will return to be rebuilt and the world rebuilt with us
By boundless love"

(HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, Orot Hakodesh)