Shabbat Chazon: Laws and Customs
The Shabbat preceding Fast of The Ninth of Av is traditionally called Shabbat Chazon, The Shabbat of the Vision. This year Shabbat Chazon falls out on the 9th of Av and the Tisha B'Av Fast is pushed to the 10th, on Saturday night and Sunday. This term "Chazon" is based on the Haftarah of Isaiah which we read on that Shabbat. This Haftarah is read as a prelude to the commemoration of that tragic day of destruction and exile in Jewish history- the day upon which the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish Commonwealth was decimated.
The verse: "How can I alone bear your troubles, your burdens, and your quarrels" (Deuteronomy 1:12), that is found in the weekly Torah portion read on this Shabbat, as well as a number of passages in the Haftorah, are chanted with the sorrowful melody of Megillat Eichah. Lecha Dodi at Kabbalat Shabbat is also chanted in a special tune on this Shabbat.
While Shabbat Chazon does have a certain solemn character, nevertheless, it is still treated as every other Shabbat where we eat meat and drink wine along with all of our meals.
*Shabbat Erev Tisha B'Av
* A special circumstance this year is when Shabbat coincides with Erev Tisha B'Av. Since the fast falls out on Saturday night/Sunday this year there are unique guidelines that must be followed. Mincha on Shabbat will be convened earlier than usual, in order to have ample time to eat, and finish, Shalosh Seudot, the 3rd meal before sunset, which is at 8:01PM.
Seudah Shlishit should be eaten at home with one's family, and there should be no symbols of the traditional mourner's meal that one generally eats prior to Tisha B'Av. Care should be taken, however, to finish eating by sunset, and not to perform any preparations for the upcoming Tisha B'Av Evening service until 8:46PM, when Shabbat concludes.
At that point, (since the fast has already begun and we cannot make Havdala by consuming wine or the like) everyone should recite the formula: "Baruch Hamavdil Bein Kodesh L'Chol - Blessed is He who has distinguished the Holy from the Ordinary"; thereby officially ending Shabbat, thus allowing Melacha - work to be performed. One should then change into his/her Tisha B'Av attire, non-leather shoes etc. and head to Synagogue for Maariv and the recitation of Eicha. The Blessing of Borei Meorei Ha'eish will be recited on a Havdalah candle following the Maariv service.
Tisha B'Av Laws & Customs
The Fast of Av takes on the unique features of being both a day of mourning and a day of atonement. The national mourning and fasting are meant to transform us and initiate redemptive advances in life. The fast is long and hard but every 'adult' is required to fast.
Because the Fast of Tisha B'Av takes on practices of both mourning and atonement we do not eat and drink, wash, anoint ourselves, wear leather shoes, nor engage in intimate relations.
Acting as mourners we refrain from greeting others on the Ninth of Av. Should one be greeted by a friend one is to respond so as not to cause bad feelings. After all, we are taught that the Temple was destroyed because of senseless hatred between Jews and we want to avoid any hard feelings on such an awesome day.
The atmosphere that prevails in the synagogue is somber. People are to internalize the gravity of the day and maintain a quiet tone. After Ma'ariv, the lights in the sanctuary are dimmed, a single light is lit at the pulpit, and the parochet is moved from the ark.
People sit on the floor, as mourners, to hear the sorrowful chanting of Megillat Eichah - Lamentations. When - Hashivenu the second to last verse is chanted, the congregation repeats the verse followed by the reader.
One who is in mourning and sitting shivah should go to the synagogue for the reading of Eichah and for the recital of Kinot.
One does not study Torah on the Ninth of Av. For it is written "the statutes of G-d are upright, they rejoice the heart" (Psalms 19:9), and one who is mourning is forbidden to rejoice. The custom is to study only those texts and laws that deal with the history of the temple's destruction or with the laws of mourning.
Because Tefillin are referred to as being our "glory" and on the Ninth of Av the glory of our worship is absent, we do not put on tefillin at shacharit. They are worn instead at Mincha.
In the Amidah prayer, the chazzan inserts Anenu between the blessings of Go'el Yisrael and Refa'enu as is done on every fast day. Those who follow the Sephardic rite, recite the Anenu in the silent Shemoneh Esreh in the berachah of Shema Kolenu. Tachanun is not said on the Ninth of Av since the day is referred to as being a mo'ed - a holiday. Birkat Kohanim [the priestly blessing] is omitted during Shacharit but is recited at Mincha. The psalm of the day is omitted at the end of Shacharit. This prayer is said before putting on Tefillin at Mincha.
After the Torah and Haftarah reading, people are seated on the floors and recite Kinot for as long as time and energy allow. Some have a custom of visiting the cemetery on the Ninth of Av.
The day is spent in reflection on our long and difficult history. To this day, many duplicate the past practice of the elders of Jerusalem who used to walk around the walls of the city so as to awaken a sense of pain by seeing the ruins of the city. Jerusalem continues to be a city that mourns the glory of the past and Israel continues to contend with an arduous struggle for peace and security.
Mincha is conducted with tallit and tefillin. We read the Torah portion of Vayi'chal (Shemot 32) followed by the Haftarah of Dirshu Hashem (Yeshayahu 55:6 - 56:8). In the Shemoneh Esreh the Nachem prayer is added to the blessing of Boneh Yerushalayim and Anenu is added to the blessing of Shome'a Tefillah.
Kiddush Levanah [the sanctification of the new moon] is recited immediately after Ma'ariv.