Offering the Passover sacrifice
Offering the Passover sacrifice Flash 90

This year, the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat, therefore we do not fast on the ninth itself. This is by no means unusual: it is the 24th time this century, meaning since 5700 (1940), that the 9th of Av has fallen on Shabbat.

In previous years, when the 9th of Av has fallen on Shabbat, the fast has been postponed to the 10th of the month, because no fast other than Yom Kippur can override Shabbat: the fast has therefore begun at sunset on Shabbat afternoon, and continued until nightfall on Sunday night.

We have no public mourning on Shabbat, even though it is the 9th of Av. Thus the Talmudic master Shmuel recorded the ruling that we are permitted to eat meat and drink wine at all meals, including at Se’udah Sh’lishit (the Third Meal on Shabbat afternoon), even for those who do not usually eat meat or drink wine at this meal (Ta’anit 29b), and this indeed is the halakhah in practice (Rambam, Laws of Fast Days 5:8; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 552:10; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 125:1; see also Rashi to Eiruvin 41a, s.v. וכן ערב תשעה באב).

Nevertheless, we must stop eating and drinking before sunset on Shabbat afternoon, because that is when the fast begins. (for detailed halakhic information, see here)

Though no public mourning is permitted on Shabbat, there can (and maybe should) be some private recognition of the sadness of the day. I have my own personal way of recognising the 9th of Av on Shabbat: I own one piece of jewellery, a solid gold ring with my initials (ד פ) embossed on it. I wear this ring every Shabbat and Chag – except for Shabbat which falls on the 9th of Av.

After all, not wearing a ring does not constitute public display of mourning.

The Haftarah (reading from the Prophets following the Torah-reading on Shabbat morning) is Isaiah 1:1-27, opening with the words חֲזוֹן יְשַׁעְיָהוּ בֶן אָמוֹץ, “The vision of Isaiah son of Amotz…”; this is the reason that this Shabbat is called שַׁבַּת חָזוֹן, the Shabbat of the Vision.

This chapter, recording G-d’s rebuke to His children for their rebelliousness against Him and the subsequent desolation of Jerusalem and Israel, is traditionally read to the mournful dirge-tune of the Book of Lamentations.

As for Sunday the 10th of Av, the halakhot are far less clear.

To begin with, it is fundamental to the identity of the 9th of Av (or this year the 10th) that it is pre-destined to become a time of redemption, a festival-day suffused with joy.

To understand this, we go back to the first significant 9th of Av in our history, the day that the twelve spies returned from their disastrous reconnaissance trip to Israel. Though the Torah does not explicitly state the date of the sin of the spies, the Talmud (Ta’anit 29a) calculates the Torah’s chronology:

On the 20th of Iyar we left Mount Sinai (Numbers 10:11), followed by a three-day journey (v.33) concluding on the 23rd of Iyar; then a 30-day sojourn in Kibroth-Hata’avah (ibid. 11:20, 34) concluding on the 22nd of Sivan; and finally seven days in Hazeroth (11:35, 12:15-16) before reaching the Paran Desert (ibid. 12:16) on the 29th of Sivan.

Hence, Moshe sent out the twelve spies on the 29th of Sivan (compare Targum Yonatan to Numbers 13:20) on their 40-day mission, and they therefore returned on the 8th of Av.

Their debriefing report was supposed to infuse the nation with love of the Land and inspire them to take possession of it, so the next day, the 9th of Av, we were supposed to enter the Land of Israel and complete the process of redemption which had begun a year and four months earlier with the Exodus.

But the plan went disastrously wrong when the spies instead delivered their evil report, demoralising the nation. And that night when the nation cried in despair (14:1), it was the 9th of Av.

So instead of the 9th of Av being the day of the redemption, it became a day of tragedy. But nevertheless, this day has always retained its essential character as the day of [potential] redemption.

Now we do not yet know how exactly the final redemption will come about. As the Rambam advises, “No one knows how all these events, and others like them, will happen, until they will happen” (Laws of Kings 12:1).

So we do not yet know how or when or by whom the Holy Temple will be rebuilt, if first we build the Holy Temple and then Mashiach will come, or if Mashiach comes and builds the Holy Temple, of if he comes and then we build it.

And so, in order to be ready for any scenario, here follow a few of the relevant halakhot for this Sunday 10th of Av:

Upon seeing the Mashiach, say a series of five Berachot (Blessings):

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, גָּאַל יִשְׂרָאֵל:

(1) Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, eternal King, Who has redeemed Israel.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנו וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה:

(2) Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, eternal King, Who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us until this time.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁחָלַק מֵחָכְמָתוֹ לִירֵאָיו:

(3) Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, eternal King, Who has apportioned of His wisdom to those who fear Him.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁחָלַק מִכְּבוֹדוֹ לִירֵאָיו:

(4) Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, eternal King, Who has apportioned of His glory to those who fear Him.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, חֲכַם הָרָזֶים:

(5) Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, eternal King, Knower of Secrets.

If the Holy Temple is rebuilt, then of course all the offerings are reinstated immediately.

Upon entering the Holy Temple for the first time, it is appropriate to recite the Blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנו וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה:

Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, eternal King, Who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us until this time.

If the Holy Temple is not rebuilt, we can offer no individual offerings (the sole exception is the Pesach offering).

Nevertheless, even without the Holy Temple being rebuilt, we can build the Altar on the Temple Mount and bring communal offerings on it. Thus we will be able, for example, to reinstate the תָּמִיד (Tamid), the twice-daily offering, one lamb in the morning and one in the afternoon.

The first opportunity to offering a מוּסָף (Additional Offering) after the 10th of Av will of course be the מוּסַף שַׁבָּת, the Additional Offering for Shabbat, on the 16th of Av (13th August), consisting of two male lambs.

An interesting question arises concerning the offering to atone for unintentional communal idolatry (Numbers 15:22-26, as explained in Horayot 8a), the offering for which consists of one young bull as an עוֹלָה (burnt-offering) and one male goat as a חַטָּאת (sin-offering to atone for an accidental sin).

Now the entire community has to participate in this offering, it is unquestionably a communal offering, so it would appear that we will be able to bring this offering immediately even without the Holy Temple being rebuilt.

But this presents a major practical problem: the biggest unintentional communal idolatry which the nation of Israel is currently committing is continuing to dwell outside of Israel. After all, both Rabbi Yishma’el (Avodah Zarah 8a) and Rabbi Shimon ben Eliezer (Avot de-Rabbi Natan 26:4) say: “Any Jew outside of the Land of Israel worships idolatry in purity”.

This is indeed Halakha in practice:

“A Jew must always live in the Land of Israel, even in a city whose majority are idolaters, and not live outside of the Land of Israel, even in a city whose majority are Jews, because everyone who leaves Israel is as though he worships idolatry” (Rambam, Laws of Kings 5:12).

So the practical problem, of course, is how those millions of good devout Jews in Flatbush, Monsey, Williamsburg, Lakewood, Golders Green, Stamford Hill, Salford, Prestwich, Strasbourg, Antwerp, Rue des Rosiers, Berlin, Toronto, and other places of exile will be able to participate in this offering.

It is, after all, precisely these devout and pious Jews who constantly worship idolatry in purity, perhaps connoting “unintentionally”, who need this offering to atone for their [unintentional] idolatry – but these are precisely the Jews who are so disconnected geographically from Jerusalem that they will not be able to participate in offerings, even vicariously.

At the present time I see no solution to this conundrum. The best I can suggest is the standard Talmudic formula, תִּשְׁבִּי יְתָרֵץ קֻשְׁיוֹת וּבְעָיוֹת: Elijah the Tishbite, the Prophet who will herald Mashiach, will resolve all unanswered questions and insolvable problems.

There are some Jews who have a very laudable custom of keeping a meticulous record of every accidental sin they commit, so that in the future time to come they will be able to bring a קָרְבַּן חַטָּאת (accidental-sin offering) to atone for every such sin.

This is based on an incident recorded in the Talmud, when Rabbi Yishma’el ben Elisha (who lived in the first generation after the destruction of the Holy Temple) accidentally desecrated Shabbat when he was reading by the light of a lamp, and without thinking tilted the lamp to increase the flame. He subsequently wrote in a ledger: “I, Yishma’el ben Elisha, was reading and tilted a candle on Shabbat; when the Holy Temple will be rebuilt I will bring a fat sin-offering” (Shabbat 12a).

Similarly with a convert: A non-Jew who converts to Judaism has to bring an עוֹלָה (burnt-offering), consisting of an animal (male bull, sheep, or goat), or two turtledoves or two young doves (either male or female). At this time, in which there are no offerings, the convert must have the intention to bring his or her offering, and when the Holy Temple will be rebuilt he or she will bring his or her offering (Rambam, Laws of Forbidden Relationships 13:5).

However, these are individual offerings, so if the Holy Temple is not rebuilt, we can offer no חַטָּאת (sin-offering to atone for an accidental sin), no אָשָׁם (guilt offering to atone for a deliberate sin), no זֶבַח תּוֹדָה (thanksgiving offering), no עוֹלָה (burnt-offering) which a woman brings after childbirth and which a convert brings, and so on.

If it is rebuilt, then anyone who owes a offering has to bring that offering by the end of the cycle of the Pilgrimage Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot). Therefore if the Holy Temple is rebuilt on Sunday or any time before Sukkot, he or she has until Shavuot of next year 5783 (26th May 2023) to fulfil his or her obligation.