Category Archives: Fast Days

Tisha B’Av in Six Minutes

This month I’m super busy with academic finals and am studying day and night for tests, so I’ll make it very short this time:

How is this Tisha B’Av Different?

Tisha B'Av in Six MinutesTonight and tomorrow, Friday and Shabbat is Tisha B’Av (9th Av) and in principle we should be eating the Seuda Mafseket (the meal before the fast) right now and start fasting on Shabbat. Since this fast is only a Rabbinical Decree (unlike Yom Kippur), the fast is delayed until Saturday night (10th Av).

This means there are a few differences on how we prepare for the fast. Continue reading Tisha B’Av in Six Minutes

Faxing to Shabbos Across Time Zones

shabbos across time zonesStaying in touch wherever we go is so ingrained into our psyche that if one is younger than their early twenties they probably can’t remember otherwise. Whether we send email or IM’s, post by Twitter or update our Facebook account, we accustomed to a continuous ubiquitous connection with the global village 24/7. Or at least 24/6 for those who keep Shabbos.

24/7 Connection

I still remember the time before email, working full-time far from home and not even owning a mobile phone (am I that old???). Today is different. We connect ALL THE TIME.

Being connected all the time, everywhere, has it’s benefits but a lot of drawbacks too. “They” expect you to be in touch all the time.

“Why didn’t you respond??? I sent you a text message over 3 minutes ago!”.  Don’t you read it???

This brings me to the 24/7 issue or rather the 24/6 issue, barring Shabbos. I’m referring to Shabbos Across Time Zones.

Let’s say you’re roaming around Thailand on vacation and spend a lovely Shabbos at the Chabad House in Phuket. Shabbos ends on an upbeat note and right after Havdolo you give in to the unbearable temptation of checking your work email from back home in Vancouver.

shabbos across time zonesYou discover a desperately urgent message from your Jewish boss sent just before Shabbos in Vancouver (there’s a 14 hour discrepancy between the two cities) that needs a response ASAP or the world will certainly come to an end. Without a second thought you type out a response by email and press SEND. Then you follow it with a written fax and your signature. A moment after sending it off you ask yourself if you did the right thing since the fax printed out into your boss’s office while it’s still Shabbos morning on the west coast of Canada.

Shabbos Across Time Zones

How do you handle email or faxes when you are in a different time zone than the person you need to send the message to and it’ll arrive on their Shabbos?

Let’s say all the systems of telecommunication and Internet service providers are not Jewish owned and they aren’t up-keeping the systems just for yours truly. But what is the Halocho if you send an email or fax to Israel when it’s still Shabbos over there? Somebody in Israel is possibly working on Shabbos to make sure all the systems are go.

Another problem could arise if your boss is not Shabbos observant and has the habit of dealing with all the leftover issues on Saturday. That means they’ll act on your post-Shabbos messages and do more work, all because of your dedication to work 24/6…

Rav Yehoshua Y. Neuwirth wrote that one may send a fax (before or after Shabbos) to a place where Shabbos is now observed, but the recipient may not read it on Shabbos (Shemirath Shabbath Kehilchata 31:28). Rav Neuwirth didn’t differentiate between if the telecommunication structure is run by Jews or not. I’m guessing that its because most of the electronic activity is automatic, though repairs and such are performed by Jews on Shabbos.

Ask The Rabbi of Ohr Sameach quotes a similar ruling by Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg permitting both faxes and email to a place where it’s still Shabbos.

Nevertheless, I’m certain that if you know that your boss or colleague will read or act upon the message during Shabbos then you must wait till Shabbos is over by them (or put a delay send on the message) so that you won’t cause them to desecrate the Shabbos because of you.

In conclusion, whether the act of sending off a fax or email after Shabbos to a different time zone where it’s still Shabbos is permissible or not, I have a fundamental question. If you’re on vacation in Thailand, why in the world are you still checking your work email? For that you spent thousands of dollars to go to the Far East? Think a moment.

Moreover, by the time you read the message and reply to it many hours have passed. I’m hoping your boss will read it only after Shabbos is over by them too. By then reality has changed and your boss probably succeeded in resolving the problem on their own. If it’s still urgent they’ll phone you (assuming you made the error of leaving them an emergency number while you’re on vacation).

Besides, if you respond to work issues on vacation you are teaching your boss or colleagues or workers that its alright to bother you on vacation. You’re showing them that its impossible to manage without you ever. Be sure they’ll use that fact to their advantage on your expense. So loosen up a bit. Enjoy your trip without work.

The 4-Hour Workweek

Shabbos Across Time ZonesFor practical guidance on how to detach from work and work-related emails on vacation I highly recommend reading Tim Ferriss’ best seller The 4-Hour WorkWeek. I’ve read it twice and listened also to the audio version. Ferriss has some far out ideas in that book, but there’s a lot to learn from it.

Shabbat Shalom!

Travel After Tisha Bav and Avoid Jet-Lag

1343742495_fasting travel after tisha bavDespite my dire predictions, the fast wasn’t too difficult this year. I’m hoping that not too many people chose to travel on Tisha B’av as it wouldn’t have been easy.

Now that it’s the evening after the fast, travel is as usual, right?

Not exactly.

Laws of the 10th of Av

First of all a few general laws on post-Tisha B’av activity for someone who’s staying home:

  • The limitations of the “Three Weeks” and the “Nine Days” continue until midday of the 10th of Av, according to the Ashkenazi tradition. The Sephardi tradition continues this custom till the evening after the 10th of Av. This includes the prohibition of music, haircuts, meat and wine, laundering and bathing.
  • When Tisha B’Av was observed on Sunday, Havdallah is recited over a cup of wine (or grape juice) or beer but no spices are used.
  • When this Sunday was the 10th of Av (for example the 9th was Shabbat and observance of Tisha B’Av was postponed to Sunday the 10th), haircuts, laundering and bathing are permitted Sunday night, the 11th of Av. However, meat and wine are prohibited until Monday morning.
  • When Tisha B’Av is on Thursday so that the 10th of Av is on Friday, in honor of Shabbat laundering is permitted on Thursday night; haircuts and bathing Friday morning; and music in the afternoon.
  • The custom is to sanctify the new moon the night after Tisha B’Av, preferably after having eaten something. When Tisha B’Av is on Thursday, the custom is to wait until Saturday night when the service can be said with greater joy.

Travel After Tisha Bav

What are the main points for travel after Tisha Bav on the evening and day after the fast?

  • If you are traveling on the 10th of Av you may wash the clothes you need for the trip on the night after the 9th and on the morning of the 10th.
  • Concerning eating meat and wine, if you are Ashkenazi then you’ll have no problem with lunch on the flight at it’ll probably be served after noon. If not, then just asked to be served a bit later or keep the meal on your table till the right time. If you have the Sfardi custom to avoid meat all day of the 10th then be sure to ask for a fish or other Parve Kosher meal when you book your flight. If they only have a meat meal and you have nothing else to eat, then you may be lenient.

Are there any benefits in travel after Tisha Bav?

I doubt there are any spiritual benefits in traveling after a fast day, but I’ve discovered an interesting benefit of fasting to overcome jet-lag.

Fasting for Jet lag

In the online Harvard Business Review article called A “Fast” Solution to Jet Lag, I came across the following:

Circadian_rhythm_labeled travel after tisha bavFor long- distance travelers, jet lag can be a major issue. It can dull the concentration you need for meeting with international clients and make you feel lousy. Some travelers try to cope with it by taking pills. Others adjust their sleep schedules before a long trip. Still others simply struggle with it through sheer force of will power.

New research points to another, possibly more effective, weapon in the fight against jet lag: fasting before and during a trip.

Scientists already know that “clocks” in the brain, liver, heart, and other tissues are responsible for the daily cycles in many of our bodily processes and functions, including temperature, blood pressure, hormone production, hunger, and wakefulness. Quickly crossing several time zones throws the body’s clocks out of whack and leads to the symptoms of jet lag — fatigue, insomnia, nausea, headache, and diminished concentration. For each time zone you cross it takes about a day of adjusting to a new light/dark schedule to get in sync with local time at your new destination.

Dr. Clifford B. Saper and colleagues at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston now think that food — or, more specifically, the lack of it — may resynchronize body rhythms faster than light and dark.

As Dr. Saper has explained, you can try fasting both before and during your long flight, then eating in a pattern that puts you in sync with local time. For instance, if you’re taking a 14-hour flight from New York to Beijing, it would work like this:

  •  Avoid all food from the time you get to the airport (i.e., about two hours before departure)
  • Don’t eat during the flight — but still drink plenty of water
  • Eat soon after you land, as close to a local meal time as possible

So if you need to fly directly after the 9th of Av, then break your fast with a light meal at home before you leave for the airport. Skip your Kosher prepackaged reheated meal on the plane, drink plenty of liquids throughout the flight and eat your next main meal when you land.

In my humble opinion, many people including myself, overeat after a fast, so following this diet might help you avoid post-fast bloating and headache and reduce the jet-lag to boot.

Have a nice summer.

Tisha Bav Torah Study On The Go

Torah Study On The Go

As I wrote yesterday, the fast of Tish’a B’av is the slowest fast day of the year. Even Yom Kippur (equally long), seems to progress faster. I assume that it’s due to the lively intensive prayers and occasional singing which occupies our time in the synagogue for most of the evening and day on the Holiest day of the year. Tish’a B’av though, has very little to occupy or distract our minds since we are prohibited from doing anything enjoyable, including the study of Torah.

The only exceptions to the prohibition of Torah study are sections dealing with the destruction of the Temple and the exiles from Israel, mourning and such topics.

To quote the Aish.com website:

Tisha Bav Torah Study On The GoSince the heart rejoices in the study of Torah, it is prohibited to learn topics other than those relevant to Tisha B’Av or mourning.

One may learn: Lamentations with its Midrash and commentaries, portions of the Prophets that deal with tragedy or destruction, the third chapter of Moed Katan (which deals with mourning), the story of the destruction (in Gittin 56b-58a, Sanhedrin 104, and in Josephus), and the Halachot of Tisha B’Av and mourning.

When you are at home you can easily find all the permitted Torah material in your local synagogue or Bais Medrash. When you are in transit and stuck in a hotel room all day, how do you keep occupied in a permissible way and make the day’s mourning a meaningful experience?

I could recommend watching Holocaust films all day (Schindler’s List, Escape From Sobibor etc.), but I doubt there is a Rabbinical sanction for parts of these films due to the less than modest dress code (Tzniut).

Tisha Bav Torah Study On The GoSo here is a list of online resources with links you can use to study Torah, read and listen to classes all day long and fill your time usefully in a permissible way which I’ll call “Tisha Bav Torah Study On The Go”:

Early Texts & Sources

  • Lamentations (Eicha with JPS English Translation):
  • Job (Iyov with JPS English Translation):
  • Jeremiah: all sections critical of the Jews’ behavior or about the destruction. This is most of the book. Starting from chapter 1, one can continue until chapter 29, skipping the few verses of consolation that appear. Chapters 30-33 are largely prophecies of consolation, and should be skipped. Chapters 34-36 are again negative prophecies. Chapters 37-38 are preliminary to the siege of Jerusalem; Chapter 39 (JPS English Translation) begins the account of the fall of Jerusalem, and the account of the destruction continues until chapter 45, inclusive. Chapter 46 begins a section about the other nations, which should be skipped; chapter 52 (the last chapter) is again about the fall of Jerusalem.
  • Moed Katan (3rd chapter):
  • Gittin (56b-58a):
  • Talmud Sanhedrin (96a-97):
  • Talmud Yerushalmi about the destruction and about the laws of Tisha B’Av (Taanis chapter 4, halachot 5-6):
  • Rambam’s Laws of Mourning:
  • Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, laws of Tisha B’Av and mourning for Jerusalem (section 552-561):
  • Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah, laws of burial and mourning (from section 339 to the end):
  • Midrash on Megilat Eicha

 Modern Texts & Sources

So if God forbid the Moshiach is not here by tomorrow evening, have a fruitful day of Tisha Bav Torah Study On The Go.

Tish’a B’av – the Slowest Fast Day – From East To West

The Slowest Fast Day

Tish’a B’av, in my opinion, is the slowest fast day of the year.

Arch_of_Titus_Menorah Slowest Fast DayThis coming Monday night, 4th August, commences the fast of Tish’a B’av. It commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the Land of Israel. It also commemorates other tragedies which occurred on the same day, including the Roman massacre of over 100,000 Jews at Betar in 132 CE.

What make this fast day unique is that it feels like the slowest fast day of all the six annual fasts. Twenty-five hours without food and water during the hottest season of the year. If that isn’t enough, you sit on the floor all morning, reciting Kinos which are written in rather difficult poetic language and you can’t occupy yourself with anything half-resembling an enjoyable activity. Not even learning Torah topics unless they relate to Tish’a B’av, the Holocaust, mourning practices or similar topics.)

It’s hot, depressing and time doesn’t seem to pass. This year with the war and all the troubles we are undergoing in the Holy Land, it will probably make the day much heavier than usual. That seems to be Tish’a B’Av in a nutshell. At least on Yom Kippur you are in Shul praying and singing, which is an uplifting experience.

East to West Flights on a Fast

And that brings me to a critical point – what do you do with the fast if you need to fly from east to west? Like Tel Aviv to New York or New York to L.A. or even to Hawaii.

Flying east to west means the the clock is moving backwards and you end off with extra hours of thirsty, head-achy discomfort while watching many of the people on the plane having a good time (after 25 hours without a morsel, even a lukewarm cup of instant coffee or a glass of cool water feels like a good time…).

Tel Aviv to NY adds seven hours. To LA makes it an extra 10 hours of fasting. Till Hawaii is a total of 13 extra hours of agony. How then does one deal with the issue of time zones when flying on an empty stomach?

Of course my warmest recommendation is to avoid at all costs flying during a fast. Stay where you are and finish it all in 25 hours. The flight and altitude during the flight dehydrates you more than on the ground and it is a very uncomfortable experience even without the extra hours. But lets say you really have no choice and you absolutely must fly during the fast. What then?

First of all the status of Tish’a B’av seems to be more strict than other fast days (like 17 Tamuz, Tsom Gedalia and 10 Teves), which are a Minhag according to some opinions. According to many Rabbi’s, Tisha B’av is a Rabbinical obligation nearly as severe as Yom Kippur (which is biblical). Therefor it would mean that one must be stricter with it even to the extent of lengthening the fast because of the east-west flight.

Nevertheless there are at least 3 opinions concerning extending a fast beyond the 25 hour day (I write 25 and not 24 because we need to take in account that the fast commences at sundown and ends at nightfall which is more then 24 hours in total).

Rav Moshe Feinstein

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Oruch Chaim Vol. 3 Ch. 96) states that one should keep fasting till nightfall according to the location you are in at the moment. That means if you fly Tel Aviv – Hawaii you’ll be without a drop for nearly 38 hours.

Nachal Eshkol

There is an unusual opinion of the Nachal Eshkol (commentary to Sefer Ha’Eshkol on the laws of Tish’a B’av) that in the city of Stockholm, Sweden they fasted no later than 21:30 since no Jewish community existed farther north than Stockholm when the fast-days were established. This might apply also to westbound travelers.

Rav Shmuel Vozner

According to Rav Shmuel Halevi Vozner (Shevet Halevi Vol. 7 Ch. 76) the minimum obligation of a fast is until sundown (and not till nightfall). Therefor it will be acceptable under the circumstances to break your fast at sundown wherever you happen to be at the time.

Rav Vozner adds that once a person passes the normal time for fasting and begins to weaken, their status changes into that of a Choleh She’en Bo Sakana (a mildly ill person). The longer the fast extends the more risky it becomes to one’s health. Once a person feels very bad, they are allowed to break their fast and eat or drink the minimum required for their health. As to the opinion of the Nachal Eshkol, Rav Vozner expresses his reservations about it and even doubts its validity in Halacha.

Slowest Fast DayBottom line, and taking in account the severity of Tish’a B’av, one should try their best to fast until nightfall at the location you are at the moment. If you start feeling a bit ill, you can break your fast at sundown. If you feel very ill, then you are considered a Choleh (ill person) and can eat and drink the minimum needing to balance your health.

As I wrote before, avoid flying on Tish’a B’av at all costs but if the Mashiach comes by Monday eve, we’ll all be able to eat a first class meal…