Tisha B’Av

When is Tisha B’Av?

Tisha B’Av is a widely celebrated date in Judaism. It falls annually on ninth day of Av, a month on the Jewish calendar. As a day of mourning in the Jewish community, Tisha B’Av is a day of prayer and reflection, as well as strict fasting rules. It is celebrated in communities across the globe, with prevalence higher in predominantly Jewish regions. Sadly, due to conflict between other religions, some cultures attempt to disrupt the observance of Tisha B’Av in developing nations.

When is Tisha B’Av?

Since the calendar is different from the modern Gregorian version that has 365 days, the exact date of Tisha B’Av varies year to year. In 2012, the holiday fell on July 29th. In 2013, Tisha B’Av falls on July 16th, and it will be observed in 2014 on August 5th. If the ninth day of Av ever falls on a Saturday, Tisha B’Av is recognized immediately on the following Sunday.

Unlike other holidays, Tisha B’Av is observed over a full 25-hour period. It officially starts at sunset the day before. For example, in 2013, observance of this holiday will commence at sundown on July 15th.

History and the Five Calamities

The selection of the ninth day of Av is no coincidence for this Jewish day of mourning. While the exact start date of Tisha B’Av isn’t clear, the holiday commemorates horrific events in Jewish history that occurred on the ninth day of Av. These are often referred to as the Five Calamities and include:

  • Events in scripture that detail 10 out of 12 of Moses’s spies giving negative reports about the Promised Land. Due to this lack of faith and appreciation, God punished the Israelites.
  • Destruction of King Solomon’s temple, often referred to as the First Temple. The Babylonians destroyed the temple in 586 BC and the Jewish people were held in captivity.
  • Burning of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. In addition, the Jews were exiled from the Holy Land.
  • Destruction of Betar by the Romans in 132 CE, and the subsequent murder of over 100,000 Jews.
  • Destruction of the future area of the Third Temple by Turnus Rufus in 133 CE.

These are ancient events that Tisha B’Av stems from. When the Jewish people fast during this holiday, they reflect on these tragedies. Other tragic events have occurred on the ninth day of Av in modern day history. Examples include the First Crusade, the Spanish Inquisition and the start of the “Final Solution” by the Nazis during the Holocaust.


Preparations for Tisha B’Av are made weeks prior to the holiday. During the three weeks leading up to the date, the Jewish people go into a state of mourning in which no parties and weddings are permitted. These rules tend to be stricter in Israel and other more conservative Jewish communities. The first nine days of Av are especially strict leading up to Tisha B’Av in all of Judaism. Drinking alcohol and eating meat are among the activities frowned upon during these nine days.

Tisha B’Av is considered a day of mourning by the Jewish people, as well as a reflection on the travesties committed against their ancestors and relatives. On the ninth day of Av, observers fast for the entire 25 hours. The exception are sick children and adults, as well as babies. It is also customary not to bathe on Tisha B’Av. Reading the Torah is prohibited—while the lessons are valuable, the readings are considered enjoyable, which is a forbidden emotion on this holiday. Many of these rules are similar to the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.

By: Kristeen Cherney