Tish'a B'av is often not taught in Introduction to Judaism classes, but if you've recently finished your conversion to Judaism, it's an important way to get in touch with our people's history. It is a Fast Day, a day of mourning in the Jewish calendar that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. We mark this day through fasting and prayer on the 9th day of Av.
While the main focus of the day is on the destruction of the temple, Tish’a B’av goes beyond that. It’s a communal day of mourning for all of the tragedies and losses of the Jewish people, including expulsions from countries and the Shoah. Tish’a B’av is a way for us to honor the victims of these events and reflect on how we have struggled and thrived as a people.
The day itself, we fast from sundown to sunset. During this time we read from The Book of Lamentations. Traditionally we read it at night, sitting on the floor, with our books lit by candelight. The chanting is a unique nusach (melody), minor in key and haunting. We break the fast with a meal that does not include meat or wine. Other traditions may include visits to cemeteries or other places of mourning.