Many Jewish Canadians observe Tisha B’Av, which is the ninth day of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar. It is a day to remember various events such as the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple in Jerusalem. When Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat (Saturday), it is moved to Sunday, 10th of Av.
Is Tisha B’Av a Public Holiday?
Tisha B’Av is not a public holiday. It falls on Sunday, July 18, 2021, and most businesses follow regular Sunday opening hours in Canada.
What Do People Do?
Many Jewish people in Canada observe Tisha B’Av, which is a day of mourning to remember the oppression and violence that caused suffering among Jewish people throughout history. Many Jewish communities follow various restrictions during Tisha B’Av. These restrictions may include:
- Avoid washing, bathing, shaving or wearing cosmetics.
- Not wearing leather shoes.
- Avoiding certain types of work.
- Abstaining from sexual activities.
Many traditional mourning practices are observed, such as morning prayers and refraining from smiling and laughing. Those who observe Tisha B’Av are allowed to study only certain portions of the Torah and Talmud on Tisha B’Av. The book of Lamentations is read and prayers are recited in the synagogue. The ark (cabinet where the Torah is kept) is draped in black.
Some people spend time during this period listening to commentaries from respected rabbis or teachers about the observance. It is also traditional for some people to clean the house in the afternoon to prepare for the Mashiach’s (messiah) arrival. People who are sick are exempted from fasting on the day.
Tisha B’Av is not a federal public holiday in Canada. However, some Jewish organizations may be closed or have restricted opening hours.
Tisha B’Av, also known as the Jewish Fast of Av, is a period of fasting, lamentation and prayer to remember the destruction of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem. The Jewish people still continued the fast day even after they rebuilt the First Temple after the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 BCE. The Romans destroyed the Second Temple by burning it in 70 CE and this marked the start of a long exile period for Jewish people. These are two of five sad events or calamities that occurred on the ninth day of the month of Av. The other three were when:
- Ten of the 12 scouts sent by Moses to Canaan gave negative reports of the area, leading to the Israelites’ despair.
- The Romans captured the fortress city of Beitar, the last stronghold of the leaders of the Bar Kochba revolt, and thousands of Jewish people, including Bar Kokhba (or Kochba), were massacred in 135 CE.
- The city of Jerusalem was destroyed in 136 CE.
Tisha B’Av is a sad day that observes other major disasters and tragedies that Jewish people experienced throughout history, including the expulsion of the Jewish people from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492, as well as the mass deportation of Jewish people from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.
Tisha B’Av begins at sunset on the previous day and lasts for more than 24 hours. It is the culmination of a three-week period of mourning. Weddings and other parties are generally not permitted and people refrain from cutting their hair during this period. It is customary to refrain from activities such as eating meat or drinking wine (except on the Shabbat) from the first to the ninth day of Av.
Jewish Holidays Last Longer Outside of Israel
In the Jewish diaspora—Jewish communities outside of Israel—an extra day is usually added to religious observances, with the exception of Yom Kippur, which lasts only one day worldwide, and Rosh Hashana, which is celebrated over two days in both Israel and the diaspora.
This custom has its roots in ancient times when the beginning of the months in the Jewish calendar still relied on the sighting of the crescent Moon following a New Moon.
The beginning of a new month was determined by the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of ancient Israel in Jerusalem. Once the date was published, messengers were dispatched to spread the news among Jews living abroad. Since this process took some time, it was decreed that Jews outside of ancient Israel were to observe every holiday for 2 days to make sure that the rules and customs applicable to each holiday were observed on the proper date. This rule is still observed today.