Orthodox Jews around the world are preparing to observe Tisha B’Ab (Hebrew: תשעה באב or ט׳ באב, “the Ninth of Ab,”) this weekend. It is an annual fast day in Judaism, named for the ninth day (Tisha) of the month of Ab in the Hebrew calendar. The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 655 years apart, and other disasters to befall the Jewish people, such as the Expulsion from Spain in 1492. Tisha B’Ab is never observed on Shabbat. If the 9th of Ab falls on a Saturday, the fast is postponed until the 10th of Ab.
Here is what the late Suzy Vidal, in her memoirs The Jasmine Necklace, had to say about 9th Av, and its significance for the Jews of Egypt:
My mother was born on July 23, which happened to be 9 Av, the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and also the date of the Expulsion of Jews from Spain. Everyone called it Yom Ekha. Anyone who knows his Jewish calendar could easily guess which year Yom Ekha happened to be on July 23. But people were not te-ill el dam, heavy-blooded, and were not going to complicate their lives or waste time with such futilities.
“Yom Ekha is a very bad day in our calendar. It is not the day to sign an important contract, getting engaged or married. Sexual relations are forbidden. You cannot go the swimming pool or have a swim in the sea;you just sit around, pray and wait for Yom Ekha to pass away.
“Several expressions are attached to that day. It is an expression of disbelief.
If someone says,” I’ll do this or that,” you can answer “Oh yes, Yom Ekha”. It is the same as saying we’ll never see that. Of someone who is not resourceful you could say Ekha aleh or Ekha aleha. Aleh means on him and aleha on her.
“My mother was convinced that being born on Yom Ekha she was bound to be unlucky: fall off her beloved ladder, burn her hand with boiling oil or have money stolen from her bag when shopping. All the misfortunes that happened to her were because she was born on July
23, which in the year of her birth happened to be Yom Ekha.”
Here is a recording of kinot (lamentations) for Tish B’Ab traditionally sung according to the Algerian rite. It was made in 2021 in France.