Aside from Yom Kippur, Tisha B’Av (the 9th of the month of Av) is arguably the Jewish calendar’s most solemn holiday. The day commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temple in Jerusalem – two calamities that happened more than 650 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar day. Over the centuries, other sad historical events have been linked to the day, adding layers of meaning to the already packed day.
Tisha B’Av is the culmination of the three weeks – a longer period of mourning leading up to the day. Like Yom Kippur, Jews observing Tisha B’Av fast for 25 hours, from sunset on erev (the night before) Tisha B’Av until nightfall the following day. And like Yom Kippur, they refrain from other earthly activities like bathing, wearing leather shoes, applying creams or oils, or sexual intimacy. The sorrowful Book of Lamentations (“Eicha” in Hebrew) is read out loud on Tisha B’av and often followed by a series of sad liturgical songs. Many observers remove their shoes and sit on the floor in dimly lit rooms for the reading.