Pre-9th of Av survival guide

Daniel Pinner

Judaism Water bottle and cup pouring
Water bottle and cup pouring

Almost every Jew will agree that of all our fasts, the 9th of Av is the hardest. First of all, it’s the only one other than Yom Kippur which is 25 hours long (the others are dawn till nightfall). But unlike Yom Kippur, with its festive atmosphere and pleasant, even joyous, melodies, the 9th of Av is gloomy and depressing, full of dirges.

Also, of course, the 9th of Av falls in the hottest time of the year, making fasting more difficult yet.

This year, of course, we will not be fasting on the 9th of Av, since the 9th falls on Shabbat. Therefore the fast is postponed to the 10th of Av.

How to make the fast less difficult?

Here follow two suggestions:

The first suggestion is to begin preparing for the fast several days before the fast.

One of the most common mistakes that people make is to eat and drink copious amounts in the last hour or so before the fast begins. This is a mistake. When you drink a huge amount in a short time, you secrete it out almost as quickly as you imbibe it.

Instead, already on Thursday of this week, certainly no later, begin drinking small amounts very often. A cup of room-temperature water or unsweetened luke-warm tea every hour, or better still half-a-cup every half-hour. Continue this Thursday, Friday, Shabbat.

This way, by the time the fast begins, your body will be water-logged with liquids which it retains. The fast becomes far, far easier.

Avoid all alcohol for at least two days before the fast (which this year means making Kiddush on grape-juice rather than wine): alcohol causes the body to lose minerals and liquids, leading to dehydration, making the fast harder.

And avoid caffeine. For heavy coffee-drinkers this can be difficult. The ideal way is to begin to cut down on coffee and gradually reduce further, so that by Shabbat you are down to no more than one cup of coffee in the morning. This is far easier on the system than going “cold turkey” on Shabbat.

And don’t over-eat on Shabbat afternoon.

Halakhically, we are permitted to eat meat and drink wine at Se’udah Sh’lishit (the Third Meal on Shabbat afternoon), even when Shabbat is the 9th of Av itself (as it is this year), even for those of us who do not usually eat meat at this meal (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 10 and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 125:1; see also Rashi to Eiruvin 41a, s.v. וכן ערב תשעה באב).

However, though halakhah permits meat and wine, they will make the fast harder. Better, far better, to refrain from all alcohol, and to eat little and often through the Shabbat day rather than one huge amount immediately before the fast begins. And chicken is much easier on the stomach than meat.

And to drink little and often – half-a-cup of water (not juice, certainly not carbonated sugary drinks such as Coke or Seven-Up) every half-hour.

That, then, is the first suggestion for making the fast easier.

The second suggestion is to remove the foreign abominations on Har ha-Bayit (the Temple Mount) which currently defile our holiest site, to rebuild the Holy Temple, and to restore its service.

That way, instead of fasting this coming Motza’ei Shabbat and Sunday, we will be celebrating and eating the roast meat of the sacrifices.