From “Guidelines to the Three Weeks” by Rabbi Elozor Barclay and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger
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Is there any change to the prayers on erev Tisha b’Av?
Tachanun is omitted at mincha.
Do any restrictions of Tisha b’Av begin on erev Tisha b’Av?
After halachic midday, the following restrictions apply:
- One may not take pleasure walks.
- According to some opinions, one may learn only those topics of Torah that may be studied on Tisha b’Av (see question 249). Other opinions do not make such a restriction. It is praiseworthy to be strict if possible, but it is better to learn any topic of Torah than to waste one’s time.
What is the seuda hamafsekes?
This is the final meal eaten before the fast commences. Since there are severe restrictions to this meal, the custom is to eat a regular meal early in the afternoon before mincha, and the seuda hamafsekes after mincha. One should take care not to overeat at the first meal, in order to be able to eat the seuda hamafsekes.
How is the seuda hamafsekes eaten?
The custom is to eat it while sitting on the ground, in order to feel grief over the destruction of the holy Temple. The mood should resemble that of a person who has just lost a close relative and is waiting for the funeral to begin.
Must one sit on the bare floor?
This is the most preferable position, but according to some opinions one should sit on a cloth or towel rather than on the bare floor.
A weak person who is unable to sit on the floor may sit on a pillow or a low chair.
If this is also too difficult, he may sit on a regular chair but in a different place in the room than usual.
Must one remove his shoes?
No, this is not required until sunset.
What should be eaten at this meal?
- Bread should be eaten.
- The custom is to eat only cold hard-boiled eggs and water, besides the bread.
- If a person does not like eggs, he may eat lentils instead.
- A piece of bread should be dipped in ashes, and one should say, “This is the meal of Tisha b’Av”.
May one spread something on the bread?
The custom is to eat the bread plain. However, if a person wishes, he may spread cheese, butter, margarine, etc. on the bread.
May one eat any other foods?
- The custom is to eat only eggs or lentils, but if a person wishes he may eat a different cooked food.
- It is forbidden to eat more than one cooked food.
- One may eat any raw fruits and vegetables, but it is proper to refrain in order that the meal be simple and humble.
May one have any drinks?
- If possible, one should drink only water.
- It is forbidden to drink beer, unless one feels weak.
- It is forbidden to have any other alcoholic drink.
- The custom is to permit tea or coffee.
- One should not have soft drinks such as orange juice, cola, etc.
Should zimun be recited if three men are present?
No. If possible, the men should sit apart from one another during the meal. Nevertheless, even if they sit together, zimun is not recited.
May one eat or drink after bensching?
It is permitted to eat or drink again until sunset, unless one had firm intention not to do so. It is preferable to say or think before bensching that one is not accepting the fast until sunset.
May one sit on a regular chair after bensching?
This is permitted until sunset.