Learning Torah on Tisha b’Av
Why is it forbidden to learn Torah?
The verse says, “The instructions of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart” (Psalms 19:9). Therefore, one may study only the topics of Torah that deal with tragedies and mourning.
May one think about topics of Torah?
This is also forbidden, since one derives pleasure from it.
Do these restrictions also apply to women?
May one study Torah with children?
- It is forbidden to teach them regular Torah topics.
- It is permitted to relate to them the story of the destruction of the Temples and similar stories of persecution and calamities.
- Opinions differ whether one may teach them other Tisha b’Av topics.
May children study regular Torah topics by themselves?
- Children below the age of six do not need to be prevented from studying any topics by themselves.
- From the age of six, children should be trained to study only topics dealing with tragedies and mourning.
Which Torah topics may one study?
- The story of the destruction of the two Temples. This can be found in the Talmud, midrash, and similar works.
- The book of Eicha (Lamentations), its midrash, and commentaries.
- The book of Iyov (Job) and its commentaries.
- The sections of the book of Jeremiah that deal with tragedy and destruction, and the commentaries. One must omit the sections that deal with the destruction of other nations and with consolation.
- Stories of persecution and calamities that befell the Jewish nation throughout the ages, including the holocaust.
- The kinnos.
- The laws of Tisha b’Av.
- The laws of mourning.
- The third chapter of Moed Koton in the Talmud.
May one study the portions of the Torah that are read in shul on Tisha b’Av?
- The morning reading may be studied by everyone, since it deals with tragedy.
- The afternoon reading may not be studied, but the person who will read it in shul may prepare it beforehand.
May one study books of mussar?
- It is permitted and even praiseworthy to do so, if the intention is to arouse the heart to repentance and the mending of one’s ways.
- According to some opinions, one should avoid works that quote verses from Tanach or statements of the Sages.
May the permitted topics be studied in depth?
According to some opinions, they should only be studied on a simple level, since deep study brings a person joy. Some opinions permit studying in depth, since it is perfectly normal to search for answers to questions and difficulties that arise.
May one study these topics with a partner?
May one record new Torah insights that arise during study?
This is forbidden, since the writing of Torah ideas brings joy. However, if a person is afraid that he may forget the insights, he may make a brief note of them, and rewrite them properly after Tisha b’Av.
Are men obligated to learn Torah on Tisha b’Av?
- According to most opinions, a man is obligated to study Torah on Tisha b’Av, except that he is limited to certain topics.
- According to some opinions, the mitzvah of learning Torah is suspended on Tisha b’Av, and the study of permitted topics is optional.
- Nevertheless, all opinions agree that one must not be distracted from the mood of mourning throughout the entire day. It is certainly forbidden to listen to the radio, read newspapers and magazines, books, etc., or to pass the time with frivolous conversation. This applies also to women.
May one say tehillim?
- Tehillim for a sick person may be said all day.
- Tehillim that are said on a daily basis may not be said in the morning. Preferably, one should also not say them in the afternoon.
Should one say the entire bedtime shema?
According to most opinions, this should be said as usual.
May one give a halachic ruling?
This is forbidden, unless the question is relevant to Tisha b’Av, e.g. for a sick person who requires an immediate reply. Explanations of the ruling should not be given.