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Shabbat, 17 Tammuz 5775 / July 4, 2015
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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Ta'aniyot - Chapter Five

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Ta'aniyot - Chapter Five

Halacha 1

There are days when the entire Jewish people fast because of the calamities that occurred to them then, to arouse [their] hearts and initiate [them in] the paths of repentance. This will serve as a reminder of our wicked conduct and that of our ancestors, which resembles our present conduct and therefore brought these calamities upon them and upon us. By reminding ourselves of these matters, we will repent and improve [our conduct], as [Leviticus 26:40] states: "And they will confess their sin and the sin of their ancestors."

Commentary Halacha 1

There are days when the entire Jewish people - All healthy adult men and women

fast - It appears that the Rambam considers these fasts to be obligatory in the present era. Based on his interpretation of Rosh HaShanah 18b in his Commentary on the Mishnah, Rosh HaShanah 1:3, the Rambam explains that in the era of the Second Temple, these fasts were of an optional nature. After the destruction of the Temple, however, every Jew is required to observe them. This obligation is also explicitly stated by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 549:1, 550:1).

because of the calamities that occurred to them then - Here, the Rambam employs the same principle he developed at the beginning of this text regarding fasts instituted because of difficulties of an immediate nature, with regard to these fasts which were instituted for these national calamities.

Fasting in and of itself is not a purpose. Fasting can, however, serve

to arrouse [their] hearts and initiate [them in] the paths of repentance. - This is the intent of the fasts, and not merely refraining from eating. For this reason, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 121:1 harshly reproves those who fast, but spend their days taking pleasure strolls and being involved in other forms of leisure activity.

This will serve as a reminder of our wicked conduct and that of our ancestors, which resembles our present conduct and therefore brought these calamities upon them and upon us. - Although these tragedies took place in previous generations, we share the responsibility for them. The Jerusalem Talmud (Yoma 1:1) states, "Every generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt should consider it as if it was destroyed in its days."

By reminding ourselves of these matters, we will repent - The word נשוב, translated as "we will repent," literally means, "We will return." Teshuvah involves a return to one's fundamental self, becoming aware of the fundamental Divine nature one possesses.

Such a process relates to these commemorative fasts, which on the surface are associated with undesirable elements, but possess a positive core, as reflected in the Rambam's statements at the conclusion of this chapter that in the era of the Redemption, all these fast days will be transformed into days of rejoicing and celebration.

and improve [our conduct], as [Leviticus 26:40] states: "And they will confess their sin and the sin of their ancestors." - See Hilchot Teshuvah 1:1-2, 2:2, where the Rambam associates the mitzvah of teshuvah with confession.

Halacha 2

These days are the following:

The Third of Tishrei. This is the day on which Gedaliah ben Achikam was slain and the ember of Israel that remained was extinguished, causing their exile to become complete.

The Tenth of Tevet. This is the day Nebuchadnezzar, the wicked, the King of Babylon, camped against Jerusalem and placed the city under siege.

The Seventeenth of Tammuz. Five tragedies took place on this day:

a) The Tablets were broken;

b) In the First Temple, the offering of the daily sacrifices was nullified;

c) [The walls of] Jerusalem were breached in [the war leading to] the destruction of the Second Temple;

d) Apostmos, the wicked, burned a Torah scroll; and

e) He erected an idol in the Temple.

Commentary Halacha 2

These days are the following: - The Rambam lists these fasts, not in the order in which the events which they commemorate transpired, nor according to the order in which they are mentioned in Zechariah 8:19 (see Halachah 4), but rather in the order of the year, beginning from the month of Tishrei.

The Third of Tishrei. This is the day on which Gedaliah ben Achikam - The governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to supervise the land of Judah. The Jews who were not exiled rallied around him, and it appeared that there would be hope of maintaining a Jewish settlement in the land (Jeremiah, Chapters 40-41).

was slain - According to the Radak (Jeremiah 41:1), Gedaliah was slain on Rosh HaShanah. Because a fast could not be held on that sacred day, the commemoration of his murder was postponed until the first available weekday.

and the ember of Israel that remained was extinguished, causing their exile to become complete. - After Gedaliah's murder, the Jews remaining in Eretz Yisrael feared the wrath of the Babylonians and fled to Egypt, leaving Eretz Yisrael devoid of Jewish leadership and possessing very few Jewish inhabitants. (See Jeremiah, Chapters 41-43.)

The Tenth of Tevet. This is the day Nebuchadnezzar, the wicked, the King of Babylon, camped - The Hebrew term םמך, which the Rambam [and the prophet Ezekiel (24:2)] employ, usually has a positive connotation, meaning "support." Perhaps this is also an allusion to the concept that ultimately these commemorative fasts have a positive intent, as mentioned at the conclusion of the chapter.

against Jerusalem and placed the city under siege. - Our commemoration of this fast also marks two other undesirable events which occurred in the preceding days: the death of Ezra, the scribe, and the translation of the Torah into Greek at the demand of King Ptolemy (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 580).

The Seventeenth of Tammuz. Five tragedies took place on this day - Ta'anit 29a states: Undesirable events are gathered together on a day appropriate for them. The spiritual nature of the day is such, that the potential for such tragedies to occur is greater.

a) The Tablets were broken; - When Moses descended with the Tablets of the Ten Commandments after being on Mount Sinai for forty days, he beheld the Golden Calf that the Jews had made. In wrath, or out of his concern for the Jewish people (see Rashi, Exodus 32:19), Moses broke the Tablets.

b) In the First Temple, the offering of the daily sacrifices - The korban tamid (Numbers 28:1-8)

was nullified; - Even during the siege of Jerusalem, the Jews would offer the daily sacrifices. Despite the famine in the city, they would offer two lambs each day as sacrifices. As the siege persisted, their supply of lambs dwindled, and on the Seventeenth of Tammuz, there no longer were any lambs to sacrifice (Rav Ovadiah of Bertinoro, Ta'anit 4:6).

Significantly, other commentaries (Rashi, Tiferet Yisrael) on the Mishnah identify the nullification of the sacrifices on the Seventeenth of Tammuz with different events in our history.

c) [The walls of] Jerusalem were breached in [the war leading to] the destruction of the Second Temple; - Jeremiah 39:2 states that in the destruction of the First Temple, Jerusalem's walls fell to the Babylonian conquerors on the ninth of Tammuz. Nevertheless, it is the destruction of the city by the Romans that we commemorate by fasting, because the effects of that destruction are more severe (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 549:2). The Rabbis did not institute a fast for the Ninth of Tammuz as well, for it was felt that this would be an excessive burden for the people (Mishnah Berurah 549:4).

Furthermore, according to the Jerusalem Talmud, Ta'anit 4:8, because of the many difficulties suffered by the Jewish people, they miscalculated the date, and, even during the destruction of the First Temple, it was on the Seventeenth of Tammuz that Jerusalem's walls were breached.

d) Apostmos, the wicked - a Greek official in the Second Temple era (Rav Ovadiah of Bertinoro)

burned a Torah scroll - The Meiri identifies this as the Torah scroll written by Ezra the Scribe. This scroll was kept in the Temple Courtyard and was used to check the precision of the other scrolls. In this manner, he attempted to undermine the entire Torah tradition.

and e) He - Apostmos

erected an idol in the Temple. - Others interpret this as a reference to the idol erected by King Menasheh in the First Temple. (See the Jerusalem Talmud, Ta'anit 4:6.)

Halacha 3

On the Ninth of Av, five tragedies occurred:

It was decreed that the Jews in the desert would not enter Eretz Yisrael;

The First and the Second Temples were destroyed;

A large city named Betar was captured. Thousands and myriads of Jews inhabited it. They were ruled by a great king whom the entire Jewish people and the leading Sages considered to be the Messianic king. The city fell to the Romans and they were all slain, causing a national catastrophe equivalent to that of the Temple's destruction.

On that day designated for retribution, the wicked Tineius Rufus plowed the site of the Temple and its surroundings, thereby fulfilling the prophecy [Micah 3:12], "Zion will be plowed like a field."

Commentary Halacha 3

On the Ninth of Av, five tragedies occurred - Here, also, we see the reflection of the concept mentioned above, that undesirable events are gathered together on a day appropriate for them.

It was decreed that the Jews in the desert would not enter Eretz Yisrael - The spies sent by Moses returned to him on the eighth of Av, bearing a malicious report about Eretz Yisrael. That night the Jewish people wept, fearful about their future. God told them, "Tonight, you have wept without reason. I will designate this night as a night of weeping for generations" (Ta'anit 29a).

The First and the Second Temples were destroyed - Ta'anit 29a reconciles a seeming contradiction in chronology between II Kings 25:8-9 and Jeremiah 52:12-13, explaining that the Babylonians first entered the Temple on the seventh of Av. They reveled and wrought havoc there until the afternoon of the ninth of Av, when they set fire to the building. The fire continued burning throughout the tenth of Av.

The Sages (ibid.) do not cite a specific source for the tradition that the Second Temple was also destroyed on that day. Nevertheless, the tradition is universally accepted.

A large city named Betar was captured. Thousands and myriads of Jews inhabited it. - This was Bar Kochba's capital in his war against the Romans, 52 years after the destruction of the Temple.

They were ruled by a great king whom the entire Jewish people and the leading Sages considered to be the Messianic king. - See the Rambam's comments concerning Bar Kochva, Hilchot Melachim 11:3.

The city fell to the Romans and they were all slain, causing a national catastrophe equivalent to that of the Temple's destruction. - The extent of the carnage that accompanied Betar's fall was awesome. Gittin 57a states that rivers of blood flowed into the Mediterranean Sea, forty miles away.

On that day designated for retribution, the wicked Tineius Rufus - a Roman officer

plowed the site of the Temple and its surroundings, - According to Ta'anit 29a, this took place while Rabban Gamliel was living, shortly after the destruction of the Temple.

thereby fulfilling the prophecy [Micah 3:12], "Zion will be plowed like a field." - The citation of this prophecy communicates a fundamental point: that the destruction of Jerusalem was not an end in its own right. Just as a field is plowed to produce crops, Jerusalem was plowed to allow the city to blossom into its ultimate fulfillment in the era of the Redemption.

Halacha 4

These four fasts are explicitly mentioned in the prophetic tradition [Zechariah 8:19]: "The fast of the fourth [month],1 the fast of the fifth [month]...." "The fast of the fourth [month]" refers to the Seventeenth of Tammuz,2 which is in the fourth month; "the fast of the fifth [month]," to Tish'ah B'Av, which is in the fifth month; "the fast of the seventh [month]," to the Third of Tishrei which is in the seventh month; "the fast of the tenth [month]," to the Tenth of Tevet, which is in the tenth month.3

Halacha 5

And the entire Jewish people follow the custom of fasting at these times and on the Thirteenth of Adar, in commemoration of the fasts that [the people] took upon themselves in the time of Haman, as mentioned [in Esther 9:31]: "the matter of the fasts and the outcries."

If the Thirteenth of Adar falls on the Sabbath, the fast is pushed forward and held on Thursday, which is the eleventh of Adar. If, however, any of the [dates of] other fasts fall on the Sabbath, the fasts are postponed until after the Sabbath. If [the dates of] these fasts fall on Friday, we should fast on Friday.

On all these fasts, the trumpets are not sounded, nor is the Ne'ilah service recited. The passage Vay'chal is read from the Torah, however, in both the morning and the afternoon services.

On all these [fasts], with the exception of Tish'ah B'Av, we may eat and drink at night.

Commentary Halacha 5

And the entire Jewish people follow the custom of fasting at these times and on the Thirteenth of Adar - The Maggid Mishneh interprets this phrase to mean that our obligation to fast on these days is a custom accepted by the Jewish people after the destruction of the Second Temple. As mentioned above, others interpret this obligation as stemming from the exegesis of the verse from Zechariah mentioned in the previous halachah, as found in Rosh HaShanah 18b.

Our translation follows the standard published texts of the Mishneh Torah. Many authoritative manuscripts make a small change in the wording, which would cause the lines to be rendered as: "And in these times, the entire Jewish people follow the custom of fasting on the Thirteenth of Adar."

in commemoration of the fasts that [the people] took upon themselves in the time of Haman - The Rabbis question precisely which fasts are being commemorated. Some maintain that since the Thirteenth of Adar was a day of battle on which the Jews waged war against their enemies, they fasted at that time to arouse Divine mercy (Maggid Mishneh). Others maintain that it is improper to fast in a time of war, lest this sap one's strength, and instead the Jews merely vowed to fast, but conducted the actual fasts at a later time.

A third opinion maintains that this refers to the three-day fast that Esther called before approaching Achashverosh. Although this fast was held in the month of Nisan, it is commemorated in connection with the Purim holiday.

as mentioned [in Esther 9:31]: "the matter of the fasts and the outcries." - The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 141:2 writes that the commemoration of this fast makes us conscious of how God "hears each person's prayer in his time of distress when he fasts and repents... as He did on behalf of our ancestors in those days."

The fast of the Thirteenth of Adar is also referred to as Ta'anit Esther, "the fast of Esther."

When the fast of Esther became a formal part of Jewish observance is a matter of question. It is not mentioned in the Talmud. Furthermore, Megillat Ta'anit, a text which mentions all the fasts and festivals observed in the Talmudic era, does not mention this fast and speaks of the thirteenth of Adar, the day on which the fast of Esther is observed, as a day of celebration, the Day of Nicanor, marking the defeat of the Greek general of that name in the Hasmonean wars. It was not until after the destruction of the Temple that the observance of the dates mentioned in Megillat Ta'anit was nullified. This would appear to indicate that the observance of the Fast of Esther was of later origin.

In contrast, there is evidence pointing to the establishment of the Fast of Esther early in the Talmudic period. The Sheiltot of Rav Achai Gaon, Parshat Vayakhel 67, speak of the observance of the Fast of Esther in the time of the Mishnah. Even if this teaching is not accepted as historical fact, we can glean from it that in Rav Achai's time, shortly after the conclusion of the Talmud, the fast was already a long-standing custom.

Significantly, because of the difference in status between it and the other commemorative fasts, the Ramah (Orach Chayim 686:2) rules far more leniently in regard to this fast than in regard to the others.

If the Thirteenth of Adar falls on the Sabbbath, the fast is pushed forward - It is not postponed until after the Sabbath, because Purim is Sunday and the celebration of Purim cannot be postponed. Nor is it appropriate to hold this fast after Purim.

and held on Thursday, which is the eleventh of Adar. - As the Rambam mentions, if the date of a commemorative fast falls on Friday, the fast is held on that day. Nevertheless, it is improper for a fast that is not scheduled for such a day to be held then, since this is not proper reverence for the Sabbath (Maggid Mishneh).

If, however, any of the [dates of] other fasts fall on the Sabbath, the fasts are postponed until after the Sabbath. - Megillah 5a states that the rationale is "we do not bring close [the recollection of] Divine retribution."

If [the dates of] these fasts fall on Friday, we should fast on Friday. - According to the fixed calendar we follow at present, this is a rare occurrence. Only the Tenth of Tevet (in the northern hemisphere a relatively short fast) can fall on Friday. Even this does not happen frequently.

On all these fasts, the trumpets are not sounded, nor is the Ne'ilah service recited. - These measures are taken only in times of current distress.

The passage Vay'chal - beginning Exodus 32:11.

is read from the Torah, however, in both the morning and the afternoon services. - See Hilchot Tefillah 13:18. As mentioned there, on Tish'ah B'Av a different passage (beginning Deuteronomy 4:25) is read in the morning. Significantly, the Rambam does not mention the custom of reciting the haftarah in the afternoon service.

On all these [fasts], with the exception of Tish'ah B'Av, we may eat and drink at night. - Similarly, on these days, work, wearing shoes, washing, anointing oneself, and sexual relations are permitted (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 550:2).

Halacha 6

When the month of Av enters, we reduce our joy. During the week of Tish'ah B'Av, it is forbidden to cut one's hair, to do laundry, or to wear a pressed garment - even one of linen - until after the fast.

It has already been accepted as a Jewish custom not to eat meat or enter a bathhouse during this week until after the fast. There are places that follow the custom of refraining from slaughtering from Rosh Chodesh Av until after the fast.

Commentary Halacha 6

When the month of Av enters - Significantly, the Rambam does not mention any restrictions from the period beginning the Seventeenth of Tammuz. During this period, it is the Askenazic custom (see Ramah, Orach Chayim 551:2,4; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 122:1-3) to observe certain restrictions - e.g., prohibitions against marrying, against reciting the blessing Shehecheyanu, and against cutting one's hair. From the beginning of Av, however, other restrictions are also added.

we reduce our joy. - The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 551:1-2) state that the restrictions mentioned by the Rambam in Chapter 3, Halachah 8, are applicable during this period.

During the week of Tish'ah B'Av - from the Sabbath before the fast onward.

According to Ashkenazic custom, all the activities mentioned by the Rambam are forbidden from Rosh Chodesh Av onward.

it is forbidden to cut one's hair - or to shave, even in a manner permitted by halachic authorities (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 122:3)

to do laundry - it is customary to observe this prohibition even if one does not intend to wear the garment until after the fast (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:3).

or to wear a pressed garment - We have used a modern translation for the Hebrew term גהוץ. In Talmudic times, it referred to smoothing out the creases of a garment with a flat stone (Aruch).

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 551:3) also prohibits wearing clothes that are merely laundered, even if they have not been pressed. There are halachic authorities who will grant leniencies in this context with regard to underwear and the like.

even one of linen - Linen garments will not appear as distinguished after washing as those of other fabrics (Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 551).

until after the fast. - As mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 558:1) and commentaries, these and the following restrictions should be followed for a certain amount of time on the Tenth of Av, as well, to commemorate the fact that the Temple continued burning on that day as well.

According to the Ashkenazic custom, in which these practices are observed from Rosh Chodesh onward, there are certain leniencies, depending on one's community, with regard to wearing laundered and pressed clothes on the Sabbath before Tish'ah B'Av.

It has already been accepted as a Jewish custom not to eat meat - or fowl. Bava Batra 60b states that it would have been proper for the Jews to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine at all times in mourning over the loss of the opportunity to partake of the sacrificial meat and the loss of the wine libations. The Sages felt, however, that such a decree would be too stringent for the people to observe and hence, did not institute it.

or enter a bathhouse during this week until after the fast. - The prohibition applies only to washing for pleasure. Needless to say, washing associated with a mitzvah - e.g., a woman in preparation for her ritual immersion or washing necessary for hygienic purposes - is permitted.

There are places that follow the custom of refraining from slaughtering from Rosh Chodesh Av until after the fast. - This custom has not been accepted throughout the Jewish community. Today, animals are slaughtered so that those who do not observe the restriction against eating meat will at least eat kosher meat, and so that meat will be available for others after the fast.

Halacha 7

All [the restrictions of] Tish'ah B'Av apply at night as well as during the day. One may not eat after sunset [of the previous day]; [it is forbidden to eat] between sunset and the appearance of the stars, as on Yom Kippur.

One should not eat meat or drink wine at the meal before the fast. One may, however, drink grape juice that has not been left [to ferment] for three days. One may eat salted meat that was slaughtered more than three days previously. One should not eat two cooked dishes.

Commentary Halacha 7

In contrast to the other commemorative fasts, because of the seriousness of our loss on that day and the repetition of this loss

All [the restrictions of] Tish'ah B'Av - mentioned in Halachot 10 and 11

apply at night as well as during the day. One may not eat after sunset [of the previous day]; - Similarly, if one resolved to accept the fast beforehand, one may no longer eat (Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Ta'anit 4:6). The Ramah (Orach Chayim 553:1) states that only when one makes a verbal statement to this effect is the resolution binding.

[it is forbidden to eat] between sunset and the appearance of the stars - Shabbat 34b explains that the Sages were undecided whether this period of time, known as beyn hash'mashot, should be considered to be part of the night or the day. Hence, it is necessary to be stringent both at the entry and the departure of a day associated with halachic restrictions.

as on Yom Kippur. - In his Commentary on the Mishnah, loc. cit., the Rambam writes that, as on Yom Kippur, we are obligated to include a certain portion of the previous day in all the restrictions observed on that day.

Significantly, some of the foremost commentators on the Mishneh Torah (the Maggid Mishneh and the Radbaz) either were not aware of this statement or maintained that the Rambam changed his mind on this issue, for they ruled that no such obligation applies in connection with Tish'ah B'Av. Their opinion is accepted as halachah at present (Mishnah Berurah 553:3).

One should not eat meat or drink wine at the meal before the fast. - the seudah hamafseket. Even a person who does not observe the custom of refraining from these foods during the week of Tish'ah B'Av (or the Nine Days according to Ashkenazic custom), should refrain from partaking of them in this meal. This meal should be characterized by mourning and sadness, and these foods bring happiness.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 554:25) associates Ezekiel 32:27: "And their sins will be upon their bones" with eating meat and drinking wine at this meal.

One may, however, drink grape juice that has not been left [to ferment] for three days. - For it has no alcoholic content, and will not lead to happiness.

One may eat salted meat that was slaughtered more than three days previously. - The prohibition against eating meat was derived from the fact that with the Temple's destruction, the sacrifices were nullified. Since no sacrificial meat could be eaten on the third day and afterwards, this restriction does not apply to such meat (Mishnah Berurah 552:5).

It must be emphasized that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 552:2) and the later authorities explain that, at present, it is customary to refrain from partaking of even these foods at this meal.

One should not eat two cooked dishes. - This restriction was instituted because when two or more dishes are served, a meal is considered important, and partaking of such a meal is inappropriate at this time (Rabbenu Asher).

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 552:3-5) discusses in detail what is excluded by the phrase "two cooked dishes."

Halacha 8

When does the above apply? When one ate [this meal] in the afternoon on the day preceding Tish'ah B'Av. If, however, one eats a meal before noon, although this is the last meal one eats before the fast, one may eat all that one desires.

When the day before Tish'ah B'Av falls on the Sabbath, one may eat and drink to the full extent of one's needs, and one may serve even a meal resembling Solomon's feasts at one's table.

Similarly, when Tish'ah B'Av falls on the Sabbath, one need not withhold anything at all.

Commentary Halacha 8

When does the - need to observe the restrictions mentioned

above apply? When one ate [this meal] in the afternoon on the day preceding Tish'ah B'Av. - The governing principle for this and the previous and following halachot is that unlike the meal before the fast on Yom Kippur, the meal before the fast of Tish'ah B'Av is somber in nature. The atmosphere of mourning that prevails throughout the fast has already begun, and therefore, eating a normal meal should be out of the question.

If, however, one eats a meal before noon, although this is the last meal one eats before the fast, one may eat all that one desires. - For then, one is still far removed from the fast itself.

When the day before Tish'ah B'Av falls on the Sabbath - the obligation to honor the Sabbath surpasses the need to commemorate the destruction of the Temple. Therefore,

one may eat and drink to the full extent of one's needs, and one may serve even a meal resembling Solomon's feasts at one's table. - There are some authorities (Hagahot Maimoniot) who recommend observing certain practices associated with mourning at the third Sabbath meal. Their opinions are not, however, accepted as halachah.

There is, however, one aspect in which this third Sabbath meal differs from the way this meal is eaten throughout the year. Generally, we are allowed to continue this meal into the night. When the fast of Tish'ah B'Av begins on Sunday, however, we must cease eating at sunset. (See Ramah, Orach Chayim 552:10.)

Similarly, when Tish'ah B'Av falls on the Sabbath - since the observance of the fast is postponed, there is no need to minimize one's Sabbath joy, and

one need not withhold anything at all. - Significantly, the Rambam does not mention any mourning rites in connection with such a day. In contrast, the decisions of the Ramah (Orach Chayim 554:19) reflect the following principles. All expressions of mourning that would be noticed by the public should be forbidden. Those practices of mourning which are private in nature - e.g., the prohibition of sexual relations - should be observed.

Halacha 9

This is the rite observed by the people as a whole who cannot endure more. In contrast, the rite observed by the pious of the earlier generations was as follows:4 A person would sit alone between the oven and the cooking range. Others would bring him dried bread and salt. He would dip it in water and drink a pitcher of water while worried, forlorn, and in tears, as one whose dead was lying before him.

The scholars should act in this or a similar manner.5 We never ate cooked food, even lentils, on the day before Tish'ah B'Av, except on the Sabbath.

Halacha 10

Pregnant women and those who are nursing must complete their fasts on Tish'ah B'Av.

[On this day,] it is forbidden to wash in either hot or cold water; it is even forbidden to place one's finger in water. Similarly, anointing oneself for the sake of pleasure, wearing shoes, and sexual relations are forbidden, as on Yom Kippur.

In places where it is customary to do work, one may work. In places where it is not customary to work, one should not. Torah scholars everywhere should remain idle on this day. Our Sages said, "Whoever performs work on this day will never see a sign of blessing forever."

Commentary Halacha 10

Pregnant women and those who are nursing - although absolved from fasting on the other commemorative fasts

must complete their fasts on Tish'ah B'Av. - Needless to say, they or any other person who feels that fasting will threaten their health may eat and drink. (See Ramah, Orach Chayim 554:6.)

[On this day,] it is forbidden to wash in either hot or cold water - for the sake of pleasure. One may, however, wash one's hands to remove filth or for ritual purposes. (See the Shulchan Aruch and commentaries, Orach Chayim 544:9-10.)

it is even forbidden to place one's finger in water - without any valid reason. One may, however, pass through water to greet one's teacher or to watch one's crops (ibid.:12-13). Similarly, a woman is allowed to wash food that she will serve children, even though her hands also become wet (Mishnah Berurah 554:19).

The Rambam does not elaborate on these leniencies here, because he has already mentioned them at length with regard to Yom Kippur in Hilchot Sh'vitat Asor 3:1-7.

Similarly, anointing oneself for the sake of pleasure - in contrast to anointment for hygienic or medicinal reasons

wearing - leather

shoes - is forbidden. One may, however, wear shoes made from other materials. Even leather shoes are permitted in certain instances. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 554:17.)

and sexual relations are forbidden - See Mishnah Berurah 554:37, where the question is raised whether one may touch one's wife or not.

as on Yom Kippur. - With this phrase, the Rambam refers the reader to his discussion of these prohibitions and the leniencies that may be granted in Hilchot Sh'vitat Asor.

In places where it is customary to do work - The word "work" in this context does not refer to the thirty-nine labors prohibited on the Sabbath, but rather to concentrated activity that would distract one's attention from mourning (Mishnah Berurah 554:43).

one may work. - If, however, a person desires to refrain from working because of the unique nature of the day, he may.

In places where it is not customary to work, one should not. - The Mishnah Berurah 554:45 states that this is the custom in the Ashkenazic community at present.

Torah scholars everywhere should remain idle on this day. - For they should set examples to the people at large. Note the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Ta'anit 4:6, where he writes that "Performing work on this day is very disgraceful."

Our Sages said - Ta'anit 30b

"Whoever performs work on this day will never see a sign of blessing forever." - Rashi and Tosafot interpret this as referring to the work performed on Tish'ah B'Av itself. This interpretation is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 554:24).

Halacha 11

Torah scholars should not exchange greetings on Tish'ah B'Av. Instead, they should sit in agony and frustration like mourners. If a common person greets them, they should reply to him weakly, in a somber tone.

On Tish'ah B'Av, it is forbidden to read from the Torah, the Prophets, or the Sacred Writings [or to study] the Mishnah, Torah law, the Talmud, or the Aggadic works. One may study only Job, Eichah, and the prophecies of retribution in Jeremiah. Children should not study in school on this day.

There are some sages who do not wear the head tefillin.

Commentary Halacha 11

Torah scholars - Indeed, this applies also the people as a whole. Torah scholars are mentioned because they are expected to be more sensitive to the tragedy of our loss on Tish'ah B'Av.

The Rambam's choice of wording is based on his interpretation of the Tosefta, Ta'anit 3:11, "Chaverim should not exchange greetings on Tish'ah B'Av," for the term chaverim is often used as a reference to Torah scholars. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 554:20), however, interprets chaverim in its literal sense, that it means "friends."

should not exchange greetings on Tish'ah B'Av. - Nor should gifts or other social amenities be exchanged (Mishnah Berurah 554:41).

Instead, they should sit in agony and frustration like mourners. - Nothing should be done to distract one's attention from the loss.

With the above expression, the Rambam also explains the rationale for these laws. When the Sages ordained the commemoration of Tish'ah B'Av, they structured its observance to resemble Yom Kippur in certain contexts, and to resemble the laws of mourning in others.

If a common person greets them, they should reply to him - lest he become upset, but this should be done

weakly, in a somber tone. - So that he also appreciates the nature of the day. See also Chapter 3, Halachah 8.

On Tish'ah B'Av, it is forbidden to read from the Torah, the Prophets, or the Sacred Writings [or to study] the Mishnah, Torah law, the Talmud, or the Aggadic works. - Because "the precepts of God... make the heart glad" (Psalms 19:9). Even this joy is inappropriate on Tish'ah B'Av (Ta'anit 30a).

One may study only - Torah works that are somber in nature - e.g.,

Job, - which recounts his grief and suffering over the tribulations which beset him

Eichah - the Book of Lamentations for the Temple's destruction. This text is read communally on Tish'ah B'Av and may be studied by individuals as well.

and the prophecies of retribution in Jeremiah. - In addition, one may study the Talmudic passages describing the Temple's destruction (from the chapter Hanezikin, Gittin, Chapter 5, in the Babylonian Talmud, and the last chapter of Ta'anit in the Jerusalem Talmud), the Midrashim on Eichah, the laws of Tish'ah B'Av, the laws of mourning, and other similar texts.

One should, however, recite all the passages from the Bible and the Talmud that are included in the daily prayer service.

Children should not study in school on this day. - for they also derive happiness from their study (Ta'anit, ibid.).

There are some sages who do not wear the head tefillin. - A mourner does not wear tefillin on the first day of mourning (Hilchot Eivel 4:9). In particular, support for this custom is derived from Eichah 2:1, which states, "He cast down the glory of Israel from the heaven to the earth." "The glory of Israel" is a reference to tefillin.

The Rambam's choice of wording appears to indicate that the arm tefillin may be worn. Similarly, he does not mention any change in practice regarding the tallit gadol. The custom at present in most communities (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 555:1) is not to wear tefillin - neither the head tefillin nor the arm tefillin - nor to wear the tallit gadol in the morning service. A tallit k'tan is worn, but a blessing is not recited over it.

For the afternoon service, the tallit gadol and both the head and arm tefillin are worn.

Halacha 12

After the Temple was destroyed, the Sages of that generation ordained6 that one should never build a building7 whose walls are decorated with ornate designs like the palaces of kings. Instead, one should cover the walls of one's home with mortar and paint over them with lime, leaving a space one cubit square opposite the doorway8 that is unpainted.9 If, however, a person buys a dwelling whose walls have been decorated, it may remain as is; he is not obligated to scrape [the designs] from the walls.

Halacha 13

Similarly, they ordained that a person who sets a table for guests should serve slightly less [than usual] and should leave a place empty, [so that it obviously] lacks one of the dishes that would ordinarily be placed there.10

When a woman has a set of jewelry made for her, she should refrain from having one of the pieces appropriate for the set made, so that her jewelry is not perfect.11

Similarly, when a groom marries, he should place ashes on his forehead12 on the place where one wears tefillin.13 All of these practices were instituted to recall Jerusalem, as [Psalms 137:5-6] states: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its dexterity. Let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not recall Jerusalem during my greatest joy."

Halacha 14

Similarly, they ordained that one should not play melodies with any sort of musical instrument. It is forbidden to celebrate with such instruments or to listen to them being played [as an expression of mourning]14 for the destruction.15

Even songs [without musical accompaniment] that are recited over wine are forbidden, as [Isaiah 24:9] states: "Do not drink wine with song." It has, however, become accepted custom among the entire Jewish people to recite words of praise, songs of thanksgiving, and the like to God over wine.16

Halacha 15

Afterwards, they ordained that grooms17 should not wear crowns at all, nor should they wear any diadems at all,18 as [implied by Ezekiel 21:31]: "Remove the miter and lift up the crown." Similarly, they ordained that brides should not wear crowns of silver or gold; a garland made from twisted cords is, however, permitted for a bride.19

Halacha 16

When a person sees the cities of Judah in a state of destruction,20 he should recite [Isaiah 64:9]: "Your holy cities have become like the desert," and rend his garments.21 When one sees Jerusalem in a state of destruction,22 one should recite [the continuation of the verse,] "Zion is a desert...." When one sees the Temple in a state of destruction, one should recite [ibid.:10]: "Our holy and beautiful House [...has been burned with fire]" and rend one's garments.23

From which point is one obligated to rend one's garments? From Tzofim.24 Afterwards, when one reaches the Temple, one should rend them a second time.25 If one encountered the Temple first, because one came from the desert, one should rend one's garments because of the Temple, and add to the tear because of Jerusalem.26

Halacha 17

In all these situations, one must rend one's garments with one's hands and not with a utensil.27 While standing,28 the person should rend all the garments he is wearing until he reveals his heart.29 He should never mend these tears at all.30 He may, however, have them stitched, hemmed, gathered closed, or sewn with a ladder pattern.

Halacha 18

[The following rules apply when a person] comes to Jerusalem frequently in his travels: If he comes within thirty days of his last visit, he is not required to rend his garments. If he comes after thirty days, he is.31

Halacha 19

All these [commemorative] fasts will be nullified in the Messianic era and, indeed ultimately, they will be transformed into holidays and days of rejoicing and celebration, as [Zechariah 8:19] states: "Thus declares the Lord of Hosts, 'The fast of the fourth [month], the fast of the fifth [month], the fast of the seventh [month], and the fast of the tenth [month] will be [times of] happiness and celebration and festivals for the House of Judah. And they shall love truth and peace.'

Commentary Halacha 19

All these [commemorative] fasts will be nullified in the Messianic era - With the conclusion of the exile, there will be no need to mark the dates that led to it with mourning and fasting. Thus the Rambam writes at the conclusion of Hilchot Megillah: "All memories of the difficulties [endured by our people] will be nullified as [Isaiah 65:16] states: 'For the former difficulties will be forgotten.'

As mentioned previously, fasting is not an end in its own right, but a means to motivate the Jews to return to God and correct the faults in their behavior. The coming of the redemption will be a sign that the service of repentance is complete, and thus there will be no further need for fasting.

and, indeed, ultimately, they will be transformed - Through repentance, sins are transformed into merits (Yoma 86a). And in this process, these fasts, which came as a result of the exile that stems from sin, will be transformed

into holidays and days of rejoicing and celebration - There is no possibility for the existence of an entity that is genuinely negative in nature. All those factors that appear negative represent hidden good, and furthermore, a good so powerful that the only way it can be revealed in this world is through qualities that outwardly appear negative. Their inner nature, however, is good, and in the era of the redemption when the world will be refined to the extent that it can accept this great good, this nature will be revealed.

as [Zechariah 8:19] states: "Thus declares the Lord of Hosts, 'The fast of the fourth [month] - The Ninth, or at present, the Seventeenth, of Tammuz (see Halachah 4),

the fast of the fifth [month] - Tish'ah B'Av

the fast of the seventh [month] - the Third of Tishrei

and the fast of the tenth [month] - the Tenth of Tevet

will be [times of] happiness and celebration and festivals for the House of Judah. And they shall love truth and peace.' - Note the interpretation of this verse in the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, and the introduction to the tractate of Avot (Shemonah Perakim), Chapter 4. There the Rambam elaborates on how, instead of asceticism and fasting, God desires intellectual development ("truth") and emotional harmony ("peace").

From a different perspective, it can be understood that by quoting the conclusion of the verse, the prophet was also alluding to the means by which the Messianic redemption - and thus the transformation of these fasts - could be brought closer.

Yoma 9b relates that the Temple was destroyed because of unwarranted hatred among the Jewish people. By spreading peace and truth, we will nullify the cause for the exile, and this will cause the effect, the exile itself, also to cease (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 15, pp. 415ff.).

FOOTNOTES
1.

In this verse and in the Rambam's reference to it, the months are counted from Nisan onward.

2.

Zechariah lived after the destruction of the First Temple and is referring to the fasts instituted because of its destruction. Accordingly, the fast of Tammuz in his time was the on ninth of the month, as mentioned above. The Rambam mentions it as referring to the seventeenth, because this is when the fast of the breaching of the city's walls is observed at present.

3.

Note the positive references to this prophecy at the conclusion of the chapter.

4.

Ta'anit 30a,b describes Rabbi Yehudah bar Ilai as eating this meal in this fashion.

5.

At present, our custom is to eat a filling meal in the late afternoon. Afterwards, shortly before the fast, one eats a slight meal with bread and eggs dipped in ashes. Nevertheless, anyone who feels able to endure the fast when eating less is encouraged to do so. Three people should not sit together, so as not to become obligated in a zimun. (See Ramah, Orach Chayim 552:9; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 123:3.)

6.

From Bava Batra 60b, one may infer that this refers to the destruction of the Second Temple.

7.

The Be'ur Halachah 560 cites texts which maintain that this prohibition applies only to a person's private home, but not to synagogues or houses of study. These may be built ornately.

8.

So that it will be noticed upon entry.

9.

From the Rambam's expression (which is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 560), it appears that even after leaving the square cubit space unpainted, one should not have ornate walls. The Tur (Orach Chayim 560) differs, maintaining that if one leaves this space unpainted, one may decorate one's walls as one desires. The Mishnah Berurah 560:1 states that the Tur's opinion may be followed.

The latter text (560:2, as does the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 126:1) questions why the observance of this practice is not more widespread.

10.

Note the Mishnah Berurah 560:5, which states that this applies even with regard to feasts served in association with a mitzvah - e.g., wedding feasts, bar-mitzvahs, and the like.

11.

The Rabbis have also cited other reasons for women to be modest in their wearing of jewelry. (See Mishnah Berurah 560:8.)

12.

Compare to Chapter 4, Halachah 1.

13.

Although this custom is not observed in many places at present, it is customary for these reasons to break a glass under the wedding canopy (Ramah, Orach Chayim 560:2).

14.

Thus, according to this opinion (which is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 560:3), listening to any music is forbidden. The Ramah, however, quotes several more lenient views. He concludes that "for the sake of a mitzvah - e.g., at a wedding feast - everything is permitted." The meaning of "for the sake of a mitzvah" has been extended by contemporary authorities to include many different situations.

15.

Significantly, Sotah 48a mentions this measure as having been ordained for the nullification of the Sanhedrin (Israel's High Court), and not for the destruction of the Temple.

16.

In his responsa and in his Commentary on the Mishnah (Avot 1:17), the Rambam criticizes most singing and music, without mentioning the obligation to mourn for Jerusalem, because it caters to man's lust and material desires, rather than to his spiritual impulses.

17.

The Maggid Mishneh emphasizes that this prohibition applies to brides and grooms, who must be reminded to minimize their rejoicing at this time of celebration, but not to other individuals at ordinary times.

18.

According to Sotah 49b, this includes even a crown of flowers.

19.

Note the Mishnah Berurah 460:18, which states that if the crown is made from fabric, it may have gold, silver, and jewels attached to it.

20.

One of the most sensitive differences of opinion in the religious community in Eretz Yisrael at present revolves around this law. The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 561) states that the obligation to rend one's garments applies only when Eretz Yisrael is under gentile rule. The question is whether the establishment of a secular Jewish state is sufficient to have this obligation nullified or not.

21.

In Hilchot Eivel 9:10, the Rambam mentions this obligation, and as a proof-text cites Jeremiah 41:5, "And eighty men from Shechem, Shiloh, and Shomron came with their beards shaven and their garments rent." The commentaries on this verse explain that these measures were taken in mourning over the Temple.

22.

Even if a person sees the cities of Judah, Jerusalem, and the site of the Temple on the same journey, he is obligated to rend his clothes three times. The Maggid Mishneh emphasizes, however, that the converse is not true. If one sees Jerusalem before any other city and rends one's garments on its behalf, there is no need to rend one's garments for the other cities (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 561:3).

23.

The Bayit Chadash (Orach Chayim 561) emphasizes how one should prostrate oneself in mourning, overcome with grief at the sight of this holy place in ruins.

The Mishnah Berurah 561:5 emphasizes that this refers to seeing the Temple from afar. It is forbidden to enter the Temple Mount itself, because we are all ritually impure, and the sanctity of that holy place is still intact. (See Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 6:16.)

24.

This refers to a point from which one could see the Jerusalem of the Biblical and Talmudic eras. The location of the present city is slightly different. Tzofim is not identical with present-day Mount Scopus.

25.

A parallel exists in the laws of mourning. If one parent dies after one has rent one's garment over the passing of another relative, it is not sufficient merely to add slightly to the tear; one must rend the garment a second time (Hilchot Eivel 8:10).

26.

Here also we see a parallel in the laws of mourning. If one hears of the death of a relative other than a parent after one has rent a garment over the passing of another relative, all that is necessary is to add slightly to the tear (ibid.).

27.

As mentioned in Hilchot Eivel 9:2, the Rambam equates the obligation to rend one's garments over the cities of Judah, Jerusalem, and the Temple with the obligation to rend one's garments over one's parent's death. In mourning over others, one may cut one's garments with a utensil (loc. cit. 8:2). For one's parents and in these situations, the tear must be made with one's hands (loc. cit. 8:3).

Significantly, the Ra'avad objects to a complete equation between seeing these sites in destruction and one's parent's death, and therefore maintains that there is no obligation to rend one's garments with one's hands and reveal one's heart. The later halachic authorities, however, do not accept his ruling.

28.

Whenever one is required to rend one's garments, one must stand (loc. cit. 8:1).

29.

In mourning over others, one need not rend one's garments more than a handbreadth (loc. cit. 8:2). For one's parents and in these situations, one must continue tearing until one's heart is revealed (loc. cit. 8:3, 9:3).

30.

This refers to a usual pattern of stitching, which does not make it obvious that the garment had been rent. If one rends a garment using a less perfect method of sewing, it is permitted, as explained below.

The prohibition against mending one's garments in this manner applies in these instances and for one's parents. When mourning the passing of others, one may mend the garment afterwards (loc. cit. 9:1).

31.

At present, rather than rend one's garments every time one comes to Jerusalem, it is customary to sell one's garments to another person, so that it would be forbidden to tear them (see loc. cit. 8:7).

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