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).
(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.