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Tish B'Av

Tisha B’Av is an annual fast day in Judaism, named for the ninth day (Tisha) of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar. The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 656 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date. Accordingly, the day has been called the "saddest day in Jewish history." It marks the culmination of a three-week period mourning the destruction of both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, known as "bein ha-metzarim" (literally, "between the straits") or more colloquially known as the "Three Weeks." The period begins with another fast day, the 17th of Tammuz, when the second Temple walls of Jerusalem were breached in 70 CE.

Tisha B'Av generally falls in July or August in the Gregorian calendar. When the ninth of Av falls on Saturday, the observance is deferred to Sunday the tenth. While the day recalls general tragedies which have befallen the Jewish people over the ages, the day focuses on commemoration of tragedies in our history: the destruction of the two ancient Temples in Jerusalem, the sin of ten of the twelve scouts sent by Moses who spoke disparagingly about the Promised Land, and the failure of Bar Kokhba's revolt against the Roman Empire.

The fast begins at sunset on the eve of Tisha B'Av and ending at nightfall the next day. In addition to the prohibitions against eating or drinking, one may also observe other mourning customs of not washing or bathing, applying creams or oils, wearing leather shoes, or having marital relations. In addition, mourning customs similar to those applicable to the shiva period immediately following the death of a close relative are traditionally followed for at least part of the day, including sitting on low stools, refraining from work, and not greeting others.

The Book of Lamentations [Eikha] is traditionally read; in Sephardic communities, it is also customary to read the Book of Job.

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