The three weeks of mourning from the month of Tammuz to the month of Av commemorate firstly the day on which the walls of the second Holy Temple of the Jewish people were first breached and lastly the day on which both Holy Jewish Temples were set ablaze. Tisha B’Av is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar.
Many other tragedies also occurred during this three week period of mourning, alas.
Each and every day we also pray for the rebuilding of our Holy Temple and for the return of the Shechinah, G-D's presence to our Beis HaMikdash.
When Tisha B"Av or the fast of 17th Tammuz falls on a Shabbos, the fast is postponed to Sunday, and the seuda hamafsekes which is the meal just before the fast, is replaced with a joyous Shabbos meal.
FAST OF TISHA B'AV, the 9th of AV
Three weeks’ mourning from 17th Tammuz to 9th Av, (Hebrew months)
Restraining our mood, with sadness engulfed,
During this period, on numerous times past,
Many tragic events, made up our great nation’s loss.
The Fast of 17th Tammuz, from morning to just past nightfall,
In memory of very sad events of our downfall,
Three weeks’ mourning beginning on the short fast of 17th Tammuz,
We don't marry and from Rosh Chodesh Av, and meat and wine are refused. (except for Shabbos and except for sick people who may eat meat - see below for more special restrictions).
However, the fast of Tisha B’Av, 9th Av is a full day fast,
Equally in memory of our catastrophic past,
In memory of the tragic loss of life and in deeply felt sorrow,
For the burning of our Holy Temple, later simply a furrow.
The Babylonians destroyed Hashem’s first earthly abode,
The first Holy Temple was burned, tragic to behold,
Thousands perished or were enslaved by their evil masters,
We’d spurned lessons of our prophets, the true forecasters.
Later our Holy Land was invaded,
By the ancient Romans who then attempted,
To desecrate the site of our second Holy Temple,
And to oppress Jewish people, on us to trample.
G-D’s Holy Presence, the Shechinah departed at once,
From our Holy Temple, Beis Hamikdash, destroyed and stolen from us,
G-D’s Holy and benevolent influence on our whole nation,
Now distanced from us, great humiliation.
By the vicious ancient Romans, we were killed and dispersed,
We had not expected anything so severely adverse,
Then sojourning in distant parts of the world,
In a state of uncertainty and by many abhorred.
With Seven Noahide Laws for non-Jews, we enlightened the world,
With the pure truth of Hashem’s great and Holy word,
The purpose it was of our Nation’s dispersion,
Which will end with Moshiach's royal ascent and assertion.
Recalled on Tisha B’Av, are also our crimes, (crimes of ignoring G-D's commandments to us).
And our many tragic losses of past times,
Unarmed Jews killed in Europe and the Holy Land,
Only With G-D’s help, did we the evil withstand.
With true mourning rites, we are spiritually enclaved,
So we don’t sew garments nor have new shoes made,
Washing and bathing is clearly restricted, (except for sick people)
And no construction of a house till after 9th Av is permitted.(please also check other restrictions.)
Our nails we don't cut in the week of Tisha b’’Av,
Leather shoes are not worn on the day, all these rules from Above.
We don't wash on the fast (just fingertips only, or for food preparation, the hands) and from Rosh Chodesh to Tisha B'Av, 9 days, clothes are un-laundered,
No shaving nor hair-cuts, for our three weeks of mourning.
Well before the seudah hamafsekes is eaten for the fast, (seuda hamafsekes: the meal just before the fast)
We eat a full midday meal, so we’ll manage to last,
Take seriously, as health and life must be respected,
Thus ensuring not to faint nor to be adversely affected. (young children and sick people do not fast at all)
Then seudah hamafsekes, just before fasting, seated on the floor,
We eat in a completely mournful demeanor,
Bread dipped in ashes, by us is eaten,
With a cold hard-boiled egg, the meal is completed. (We must eat and prepare even before this last meal, as the fast is long), (this is seudah hamafsekes), ( but young children or sick people do not fast. Please consult a true Orthodox Rabbi about this matter).
We begin the fast just before sunset, as is preordained,
Then in shule (either a true Orthodox synagogue only, or at home) wearing socks without shoes, so very plain, (walking to shule in cloth, plastic or rubber shoes with NO leather, except for a sick person, or one with painful feet who may wear leather shoes), (wearing socks without shoes is a sign of mourning), (also our clothes are not freshly laundered),(we do not fast on Shabbos.)
We light some candles, to aid our reading, that will,
Bring to our conscience, the deep sadness we feel.
On Tisha B’Av night, with the first stars in the sky,
The Book of Eicha (Lamentations) we read, dirges too, we cry.
Our thoughts to our tragic times of great blight,
Hearts heavy with pain, we retire for the night.
Eicha in graphic terms, predicts our huge suffering,
With our sustaining first Holy Temple’s faltering,
How both starvation and death was everywhere rife,
Let's please learn this lesson now, please let's choose life.
Next day we privately read, the Book of Eicha once more,
And we do not work in the morning nor study at all,
At the half day mark, we may start our work day,
Thus the pain of our sorrow, with us does stay.
Eicha, lamentations, movingly does explain,
The realistic expression of the real pain,
Extraordinary faith, and great Jewish strength,
With which our forebears, the dire straits, bravely dealt.
Eicha also recalls our nation’s sinning,
That to repent we were all unwilling,
How repentance we did all neglect,
How G-D’s warnings to us, not to reject.
This is a timely lesson to learn,
The A-lmighty without consequence cannot be spurned,
All the punishments are listed in the Torah,
We should never dare, them to ignore.
Today and everyday G-D waits for our repentance,
Please all of us, let’s not take any chances,
Hear now your Jewish inner whispering voice,
To make Jewish life simply your finest choice.
“Torah is life”, we dare not think otherwise,
Everything else does pale in our eyes,
G-D is in control, He fills the whole world,
There is nothing else other than Hashem our G-D.
In those times so severely dangerous and desolate,
Repenting, intending our deeds quickly to set straight,
Trying to redeem ourselves in G-D’s Holy sight,
We recited "Shema Israel" in deathly fright.
In unison at times, on our lips "Shema Yisroel" was heard,
For Torah teaches, in faith to ask G-D,
Suffering at brutal cowards' hands, in times old and its end,
Few people attended, to help us or to defend. (But G-D will return the righteous souls of the afflicted ones.)
No music or entertainment at all is allowed,
In the mood of the fast, we’re all humbly inclined,
All diversions, amusements are rightly spurned,
As to our nation’s losses, all our minds have turned.
Fasting, feeling a true sense of reality,
That each moment of life not be wasted in vanity, (vanity: emptiness)
That each passing second’s a gift to be treasured,
Aided by middos (Heb: character traits) that we've carefully measured.
Life without faith in G-D is just like a void,
G-D is the Only One by Whom we Jewish people are awed,
G-D carries us daily, only Him we can trust,
May G-D from all alien forces, deliver and sustain us.
May the day soon arrive, when all our troubles are gone,
With blessings, joyful happiness, Moshiach to come,
G-D to reside in His Holy Temple, the Beis HaMikdash, as in days of old,
Return soon G-D please, to Your Holy Temple abode. Amen.