Mourning tragedies of Tisha B'Av, Jews fast this weekend

Area synagogues will observe Tisha B’Av this Saturday night and Sunday, the saddest date of the Jewish liturgical year.

Tisha B’Av, named for the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, begins at sundown this Saturday, July 28, and concludes at sundown on July 29. A day of fasting, it commemorates major tragedies in the history of the Jewish people — including the destruction of both ancient temples, and the expulsions of Jews from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492.

By custom, Tisha B’Av begins with a sad but poignant service. Brief Ma’ariv evening services are prayed in a hushed tone. Afterwards, those worshipers for whom it is physically possible sit on the floor for the chanting of the Book of Lamentations and the singing of Kinot with special cantillation to reflect the dark mood of this observance. At some synagogues, participants bring flashlights in order to follow the texts in the darkened room, in others dim candles are lit. On Sunday morning, during Shacharit services, Tallit and Tefillin are not worn, but a Torah reading and Haftarah are added, again with the special Tisha B’av cantillation.

Rabbi Samuel Weintraub of the Kane Street Synagogue further explains the significance of Tisha B’Av in a commentary from the congregation’s website,

Titled, “From Darkness to Light: M’nachem Av, The Consoling Month of Av," the commentary reads refers to Tisha B’Av as "a big, national day of hurt. On this day, we allow ourselves to give into bewilderment and despair.

"Our prayers and texts question even the presence of G-d and the efficacy of prayer: 'G-d, You have enveloped Yourself in a cloud, so that no prayer can pass through' (Lamentations 3:44).

"Still, on Tisha B’av, even as we taste the dregs of our history, we also move collectively to hope. The special prayer during Mincha, the afternoon service, acknowledges G-d as “M’chachem Tzion U’Voneh Y’rusha’layim” “the One who consoles Zion and rebuilds Jerusalem.”

Rabbi Weintraub continues later in his commentary, “Consolation is a soothing of the heart, but it is tied to a change of mind. Because we receive consolation, we are able to change our consciousness. We can recognize the painful, internal course which our loss set in motion, and finally start to arrest it. After many tears, we can begin to stay and then reverse the power of the loss. We can move from suffering to possibility, and from crisis to recovery.”

Kane St. Synagogue’s evening service begins at 9 p.m. on July 28 and morning service at 9 a.m. on July 29. The synagogue is at 236 Kane St., between Tompkins Place and Court St. in Cobble Hill.

Cantor Shira Lissek of Congregation Mount Sinai will lead her synagogue’s chanting of Lamentations on Tisha B’Av, with Rabbi Joseph Potasnik’s addressing “Triumph in the Midst of Tragedy.” Congregation Mount Sinai’s Tisha B’Av service begins at 9:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 28.