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Why aren't we permitted to study Torah on Tishah b'Av?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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King David writes,1 "The laws of the Lord are just, rejoicing the heart." On Tishah b'Av, we refrain from any activity which causes even a modicum of joy.

However, one is permitted to study the third chapter of tractate Mo'ed Katan which deals with the laws of mourning and excommunication. One may also study the Midrash to the Book of Eichah; Eichah with its commentaries; and Job with its commentaries, for these works awaken a sense of sorrow in the reader. One may also study the chapters of admonition and calamities recorded in Jeremiah; however, one should be careful to skip those verses that speak of consolation. One may also study the aggadot (homiletic sections) about the Destruction of the Holy Temple, recorded in the Talmud tractate Gittin.

Footnotes

  • 1. Psalms 19:9.

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Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Av
The fifth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to July-August. The saddest month of the year due to the destruction of the Temples, and the many other tragedies which befell the Jews in this month.
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
Jeremiah
1. Jewish prophet who lived in the 5th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Jeremiah. The book is replete with prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.