Jewish Fast Days


   
    July 1999, Issue Number 23          
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Jewish Fast Days and Jerusalem

By Eliezer Cohen

This year the Seventeenth of the Jewish month of Tamuz falls on Thursday, July 1, 1999. The Ninth of the Jewish month of Av fall this year on Wednesday, July 14, 1999.

The period of time marked by the Seventeenth of Tamuz until the Ninth of Av is a time of increased mourning for the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem and a lessening in activities which bring about joyfulness. Both the Seventeenth of Tamuz and the Ninth of Av are fast days, although the severity of the fasts are different between the two days.

Among the many catastrophes that took place on The Seventeenth of Tamuz in time and history, were that the walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem, during the time of the second temple, were breached by the Roman enemy. This marked the beginning of the end to the second commonwealth of the Jewish people in their own homeland, and the beginning of a two thousand year exile.

The fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz begins upon daylight and concludes with the day's end. Sick and ill people are excused from fasting, but should not partake of luxurious foods and drink. Children under the age of bar and bat-mitzvah are exempted from this fast.

The three week period between the Seventeenth of Tamuz and the Ninth of Av is a period of increased solemnity. No marriages take place, we refrain from hearing music, haircuts and pleasure trips. It is also customary not to wear a new garment at this time since it brings one pleasure. It is considered a time of bad mazel [luck], therefore we refrain from doing activities that could be affected by poor timing.

The month of Av is the month following the month of Tamuz. Once the month of Av begins, the solemnity increases. Nothing that may lead to happiness may be done. We refrain from planting, building, purchasing things that will give us pleasure unless that is absolutely necessary. We stop making and making clothing and refrain from eating meat and drinking wine with the exception of the Sabbath and other ceremonial meals, such as a circumcision. Many refrain from taking hot baths and washing laundry.

During the week in which the Ninth of Av falls, cutting the fingernails is avoided unless it is for a religious obligation.

The day preceding the Ninth of Av is a day for introspection about one's personal self in relation to the building of the temple. Many study those tracts that deal with the destruction of the Temple and the laws of the fast. The last meal before the fast is eaten late in the afternoon. The meal generally consists of bread and an egg dipped in ashes. The meal is not eaten at a table but on the floor in order to arouse the feelings of mourning for the Temple. After the meal leather shoes are removed, since they are considered to be a comfort. The fast of the Ninth of Av begins with the sunset and lasts till the end of the following day.

The Ninth of Av is the day on which the Temple was destroyed.This marked the complete end to our freedom in our land and freedom to serve our G-d with out encumberment. From this day after, we were slaughtered and sold as slaves, exiled and dispersed amongst the nations. This year, 1999, marks 1929 years since we are with out our Temple and have been exiled from our land.

At night the Book of Lamentations is read by a low candle light, in a low and mournful voice. Additional lamentations, called kinot, are said at night and also the following day. Greeting of peace between friends and neighbors are not exchanged on this day. It is the custom not to sit on a chair until the afternoon. When going to sleep at night it is customary to deprive one's self of some comfort, such as sleeping with out a pillow.

Work is not recommended on this day, for those who will occupy themselves in business and not mourn for our collective loss. They will certainly see no blessing in the fruits of the work done on this day. In the afternoon of the Ninth of Av, a meal may be prepared for the evening.

The following day is a partial day of mourning since the fire in the Temple was not yet extinguished. We wait until mid day before resuming all normal activities. May we all merit through the observance of our traditional mourning customs, the rebuilding of our Temple, where we once again will see with our eyes of flesh and blood the presence of the Almighty G-d.

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from the July 1999 Edition of the Jewish Magazine



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