Laws Of Tish'ah B'av
20. [The Talmud] teaches [Ta'anis 29a]: On the seventh of Av, the
Gentiles entered the Sanctuary ("Heichal") [of the Beit Hamikdash]. They
ate and drank in it, and vandalized it ("kilkelu"), on the seventh and
eighth. On the ninth of Av, toward evening, they set it on fire, and it
continued burning until sunset of the tenth of Av. Nevertheless, the Sages
did not ordain a fast on the tenth day, because the first phase of a
calamity is most severe.
The Jerusalem Talmud (Ta'anis 4:6) relates that Rabbi Avin would fast on
both the ninth and tenth of Av. Rabbi Levi would fast on the ninth of Av
and on the evening of the Tenth. Since he did not have the stamina to fast
the entire day of the tenth, he only fasted at night (1).
Nowadays, our stamina is diminished, and we therefore fast only on the
ninth. Nevertheless, we have accepted the stringency of not eating meat or
drinking wine on the night of the tenth and during the day, until midday
(2), with the exception of a feast associated with a mitzvah. Similarly,
the blessing "Shehecheyonu" should not be recited, nor should one bathe,
cut one's hair, or do laundry until midday of the tenth of Av. A person who
accepts a further stringency and refrains from the above activities
throughout the entire day of the tenth of Av is considered praiseworthy.
If the tenth of Av falls on Friday, it is permitted to bathe, cut one's
hair, and do laundry immediately in the morning (rather than waiting until
midday), in honor of Shabbos.
21. Although a woman who has given birth more than 7 days [and less than
30 days before Tish'ah B'av] may fast (3), she is allowed to eat meat and
drink wine on the night of the tenth (4).
22. It is proper not to engage in marital relations on the night of the
tenth of Av, unless it is the night of a woman's ritual immersion, or the
husband is departing on a journey, or returning from a journey (Sha'arei
(1) In the Jewish calendar, the new day begins at sunset.
(2) This refers to halachic midday, "chatzos," which is calculated by
totaling the number of minutes from dawn ("alos ha'shachar") until the
appearance of 3 stars ("tzeis ha'kochavim"), and then dividing it in half
(some say from sunrise to sunset).
(3) Here is a quote from HY 124:6: "[There is no question that a woman who
gave birth within a week of Tish'ah B'av should not fast.] If she gave
birth between seven and thirty days before Tish'ah B'av, she has the status
of a sick person who is not dangerously ill [and is not required to fast],
even though she does not feel sick. Nevertheless, if she feels completely
healthy and feels that the fast will not harm her, she can complete the fast.
(4) That is, as soon as the fast is over.