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Chapter 123:3
Erev Tish'ah B'av

3. There are several laws regarding the "se'udah hamafsekes" (the final meal eaten before the fast of Tish'ah B'av begins). The proper procedure is to eat a full meal before "Mincha" (the afternoon service) and then to recite those prayers. "Tachanun" (1) is not recited [during Mincha], because Tish'ah B'av is called "mo'ed" (2) , as [Lamentations 1:15] states: "He called a mo'ed against me" (3).

Towards evening, one should sit on the floor [to eat the "seuda hamafsekes"], but one does not have to remove one's [leather] shoes at that point. Three people should not sit down to eat this meal together, so as not to obligate themselves in saying "Bircas Hamazon" ("grace after meals") with a "zimun" (4). One should eat only bread and a cold, hard-boiled egg (5); one should dip a piece of bread in ashes, and then eat it. One should be careful to finish this [final] meal before sunset (6).

FOOTNOTES:

(1) "Tachanun" means "supplication" and is a group of prayers through which we beg for G-d's mercy.

(2) All the Jewish holidays are called "mo'ed," which literally means "meeting;" one way of explaining this is that it signifies a point in time when we "meet" G-d's presence in a more intimate way than on a regular day. "Tachanun" is never said on a mo'ed or during the afternoon before a mo'ed.

(3) The conception of Tish'ah B'av as a mo'ed is borne out by the prophet Zechariah, who writes that ultimately, in the Messianic era, all the fasts will "become days of happiness, rejoicing, and feasts for the House of Judah." As a foretaste of that revelation, even though at present Tish'ah B'av is a day of fasting and mourning, we do not recite "Tachanun."

(4) "Zimun" is an additional blessing recited at the beginning of Birchat HaMazon when three or more people eat together.

(5) One may also drink water. No meat or wine is allowed during this final meal, and only one type of cooked food is permitted.

(6) Although one has completed this final meal, one may still eat or drink, as long as one has not mentally decided to accept the fast upon himself.

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