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A Belated Tisha B’Av

Halachos of Tish B’Av On A Year of Nidcheh

By Rabbi Eliezer Gewirtzman

This year, the 9th of Av falls out on Shabbos, where Tisha B’Av is deferred until Sunday. Numerous shailos arise as a result of this, several of which we will discuss in this article.

Time-Released Pills:

The advent of time-released pills has greatly eased the discomfort associated with fasting for many people.

These pills are taken before a fast day and, over the course of the day, release Aspirin or Tylenol into the body, helping relieve the headaches and other ailments that often come along with going without food and drink for a full day. With the fast coming out on a Sunday, those accustomed to taking these pills will want to swallow them on Shabbos. This leads to two pertinent shailos.

The Issue of Refuah:

One may not take medications on Shabbos unless he is sick to the point “nafal l’mishchav”, bedridden, and cannot function without them. In the case of the time-released Tylenol, the individual taking the pills is not sick at this time, but knows he won’t be able to function tomorrow if he doesn’t take this medication. This leads us to the question: if one is not bedridden as a result of his sickness yet, but knows he will become sick to that level later, is he permitted to take pills now to alleviate a future ailment?

Numerous Poskim rule that this is permitted. For example, someone may know that he gets terrible heartburn – to the point of “nafal l’mishchav” – every time he eats cholent if he does not take Tums immediately after his Shabbos seudah. These Poskim, who include Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, rule that he may take the Tums at that time, even though he is not sick yet, as the fact that we know he will become incapacitated later is sufficient to allow him to take medication now.

Accordingly, there would be no issue of refuah for one to swallow time-released Tylenol on Shabbos – as one who takes them knows he will be “nafal l’mishchav” on the fast day if he does not swallow this medication today.

The Problem of Hachanah:

A thornier issue is that of the prohibition of “Hachanah”, preparing on Shabbos to do something after Shabbos.

We know that one may not perform an action on Shabbos as a preparation for a weekday. For example, one may not wash dishes on Shabbos to use them on Sunday if he has no use for them on Shabbos itself. Does this mean that one would not be allowed to take time-released pills on Shabbos in preparation for a fast that begins after Shabbos?

Before we answer this question, we can discuss another shailoh that is pertinent for this Shabbos.

In anticipation for the fast which begins on Motzoei Shabbos, many people will be eating a hearty Shalosh Seudos. While most people usually do not eat much at Shalosh Seudos, this week they will want to fill their stomachs before the fast begins. Is this permitted or is it a forbidden act of preparing on Shabbos for a weekday?

From the Mechaber and Mishnah Berurah, it is evident that not only may one not do an action on Shabbos as a preparation for the week, one may not even discuss plans for the week on Shabbos. The Mishnah Berurah says that one may not even say that he plans on doing a mitzvah on Sunday. He does, however, say that an exception to this is in a case where the mitzvah will not be done at all if it is not discussed on Shabbos.

The Mishnah Berurah further stipulates that not all discussion regarding weekday activities are forbidden to be spoken about on Shabbos. He states that only discussions about doing a melacha that is forbidden on Shabbos are not allowed, but plans that do not involve a melacha are permitted to discuss.

The Debretziner Rov zt”l, in his Teshuvos Be’er Moshe, explains that one may discuss a plan for the weekday if the action being discussed would be permitted on Shabbos, For example, if Shavuos falls out on Sunday, someone may say aloud on Shabbos afternoon that he is going to take a nap so that he will be awake on Motzoei Shabbos to stay up all night learning, as is the custom on Shavuos night. This is permitted because staying up all night does not involve any melacha that is forbidden on Shabbos. However, one may not say on Shabbos that he is laying down to rest so that he will be awake to drive somewhere on Motzoei Shabbos, as driving is a melacha that is forbidden on Shabbos and one may not discuss performing it on that holy day.  

The Teshuvos Machazeh Eliyahu, however, disagrees with the Be’er Moshe’s opinion. Citing a Sefer Hachasidim as his source, he says one should not say that he is going to take a nap on Shabbos in order to be prepared for the weekday for any reason – even one that does not involve a melacha.

Even according to the Machazeh Eliyahu, however, if one simply says he is going to sleep because he is tired, or if he says nothing out loud at all, taking a nap would be permitted even if one’s intentions in his mind are to be awake for Motzoei Shabbos. The only thing that makes the hachanah prohibited is the act of speaking out one’s intentions.

According to this opinion, when one sits down for Shalosh Seudos, he should not say out loud that he is going to eat a good meal so that he will be full when the fast begins after Shabbos. However, one may simply eat a large meal without saying anything aloud, no matter what his intentions are. For the same reason, a parent should also not tell her teenage child, “You’d better sit down and eat something so that you’ll be ready for the tainis.” An exception to that would be if the parent knows his child won’t eat enough without any urging and will be unable to complete his or her fast. In such a case, since the mitzvah will not be done without speaking about it on Shabbos, it is permitted to be spoken about.

Returning to our shailoh about the time-released pills: Some Poskim are of the opinion that taking these pills on Shabbos, even without saying anything out loud, would be forbidden. This is because taking these pills is worse than eating a meal, as when one eats a meal he is enjoying it right now and it is not noticeable that he is only eating in order to be full for the fast, while when one takes a time-released pill he has no enjoyment now and is only swallowing it as a preparation for Motzoei Shabbos. In this vein, Rav Elyashiv zt”l only permitted taking these pills on Shabbos if they are ground up and placed in water, which one can drink and derive benefit from on Shabbos.

The Orchos Chaim, however, quotes numerous Poskim who disagree and permit swallowing these pills on Shabbos. Their reasoning is that when one takes this pill, he is, in fact, deriving some benefit immediately, as he has put the Tylenol into his system, which provides relief to the body. Therefore, it is comparable to eating a large meal by Shalosh Seudos and would be permitted as long as one doesn’t say aloud that he is taking the pill to be ready for the fast.

Rav Shlomo Miller shlita proposes another reason for leniency as follows: Hachanah is prohibited when it is clear that one is preparing for a weekday – for example, he is washing dishes that he has no need for on Shabbos. When one takes a pill on Shabbos, it is not noticeable that he does not need it for Shabbos. It is possible that he has a headache now and is swallowing the pill for immediate relief. Therefore, there is no prohibition of hachanah

Since this type of hachanah is a shailoh of a d’rabanan, if one needs to take time-released medication on Shabbos before a fast day, he has what to rely upon.

The Havdalah Conundrum:

Another relevant shailoh for a year like this one revolves around Havdalah.

Since Tisha B’Av is a nidcheh, many people who are in the category of choleh may have a heter to eat. The Biur Halacha rules that a pregnant woman may eat if she feels more sick than people normally do on a fast day.

The question that comes up is what she should do about Havdalah. The halacha is that one may not eat before Havdalah, and, with the fast on a Sunday, this lady’s husband certainly did not make Havdalah for her at the end of Shabbos.

The Ramah rules that a woman should not make Havdalah for herself, but should instead be yotzeh by hearing it from someone else. The source of this ruling is that, as is well-known, woman are exempt from “mitzvos aseh shehazeman grama”, timebound positive commandments. Since Havdalah is a mitzvah defined by a specific time, it would seem that woman have no obligation of that mitzvah. However, the Gemara says that woman are obligated in the mitzvah of Kiddush on Shabbos. This is because the Torah compares “zachor”, remembering Shabbos through making Kiddush, to “shamor”, observing Shabbos by not transgressing its prohibitions. Therefore, anyone who is obligated in “shamor”, including woman, must also do “zachor”, and hear Kiddush. This leads to the question of whether Havdalah is part of “zachor”, which would mean that woman have this obligation as well.  

Because of this question, the Rama rules that it is better for a woman not to make Havdalah for herself. The Mishnah Berurah rules that if a woman does not have a man at home, she should try to hear Havdalah from another man. However, if this proves very difficult, she may make Havdalah on her own. Thus, we can surmise that since there is no man around to make Havdalah for a pregnant woman on Tisha B’av, she may do it for herself.

What does Havdalah on Tisha B’Av consist of?

First of all, the custom is to recite the bracha of Borei M’Orei Ha’Aish right after Shabbos. If a husband can make this bracha for his wife at that time, it would solve a big problem, as the Mishnah Berurah states that even according to the opinion that woman are obligated in Havdalah, they may not be obligated in the bracha of M’Orei Ha’Aish. This is because there is an opinion that M’Orei Ha’Aish is not a blessing on the benefit we have from light, but is actually a bracha to thank Hashem for creating light, and is therefore not part of the “zachor” of Havdalah. For this reason, a woman cannot make this blessing and it is best if the husband can do it for her on Motzoei Shabbos.

The bracha on besamim would not be recited on Tisha B’Av either, as the besamim are meant to revive a person and make them feel good – something we would not do on Tisha B’Av. Furthermore, the custom is not to recite the pesukim traditionally recited during Havdalah.

This leaves us only with the bracha of Borei Pri Hagafen. How is this blessing recited when making Havdalah on Tisha B’Av?

Of course, wine cannot be drunk on Tisha B’Av. Some Poskim also say that it is better not to drink grape juice, and, therefore, propose using orange juice instead. This is based on the halacha that one may make Havdalah on “chamar medinah”, a “national” beverage that is broadly drunk by everyone in a specific country. However, in contemporary times it is very questionable that orange juice fits the bill as “chamar medinah”. Today, many people are not keen on wasting calories on drinks, and it is certainly true that many less people drink juice on a daily basis than did three or four decades ago. Therefore, many Poskim feel that orange juice has lost its status as chamar medinah.

What about coffee?

Hot coffee may qualify as a “national beverage” in America, although iced coffee almost certainly does not. However, one runs into another problem when attempting to use hot coffee for Havdalah. For Havdalah, one must drink a revi’is within a time span of “kedi achilas pras”, which is quite a short period of time. It may not be plausible to drink that amount of hot coffee in such a short time.

Because of all these issues, Rav Shmuel Meir Katz shlita, is of the opinion that the best option to use for Havdalah on Tisha B’Av would be grape juice.

May we merit to see the Bais Hamikdosh rebuilt speedily in our times and may we enter an age when these halachos are no longer applicable.

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