Tisha B’Av: A Day of Remembrance


I Hold You In My Heart greeting card from our Renée Locks card series.

This Jewish holiday, which falls on the ninth of Av, will be celebrated in 2015 from the evening of Saturday, July 25, through the evening of Sunday, July 26. It is one of those holidays that seems to capture the oppressiveness of summer heat.

It was probably derived from a Babylonian festival, held on the ninth of Av, a day of dread and sorrow, the climax of a month-long celebration focused on torches and firewood. According to Arthur Waskow in Seasons of Our Joy, my favorite book on Jewish holiday customs, the Jews may have chosen this day with its emphasis on fire to commemorate the burning of the Temple. The holiday has come to be associated with other tragedies as well, for instance the massacre of Jews during the Crusades and the Holocaust.

It is a day of deep mourning, the saddest day in the Jewish holiday calendar. Beginning at sundown, the following pleasures are forbidden: eating and drinking, wearing leather, washing, anointing the skin or air with oils or perfume, and making love. These proscriptions remind me of the customs associated with the Dog Days, the hottest days of the year, when men were advised not to have sex as their vital energy could be easily depleted. The Greeks also fast between August 1 and August 15, which would (in the old lunar calendar) occur from the new moon to the full moon of Av.

The synagogue service for Tisha B’Av is conducted like a funeral. The Ark of the Torah is draped in black, or left empty. There are no bright lights, just candles, and in some Sephardic and Eastern congregations, even those are extinguished before the end of the service. The morning service the following day is also solemn, but in the afternoon the mood changes. Women may put on perfume to welcome King Messiah. After sundown, the fast is broken, and Jews wash their faces and go outside to participate in kiddush levana—hallowing the moon.

Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”



Sign up now…receive-news-3

Now Available — The Hebrew Illuminations 2016 wall calendar featuring the intricate artwork of Adam Rhine.


This entry was posted in Holiday Lore and tagged , , , , on by .

About Amber Lotus Publishing

We plant trees — over half a million and growing! Amber Lotus Publishing is proud to be a carbon-negative independent publisher with a dedication to environmental stewardship. Based in Portland, Oregon, Amber Lotus works with an extraordinary collection of artists and authors such as Alex Grey, Chris Burkard, Eckhart Tolle, Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, Louise Hay, Katie Daisy, Kinuko Y. Craft, Ram Dass, and more! We create calendars and greeting cards that illuminate the sacred dimensions of everyday life — mindfulness, healthy lifestyles, and earth awareness. We strive to consistently offer products that are authentic and distinctive to bring you a sense of the eternal by nurturing your heart, renewing your soul, and expanding your mind.

Leave a Reply