Question: May a person who ate on Tisha B’Av receive an aliyah?
Answer: According to ancient custom, a kohen who eats on a fast day should leave the synagogue before Keri’at HaTorah if he is the only kohen present so that an Israelite may receive the aliyah instead of him. The Beit Yosef rules in accordance with this ancient custom.
The Bach, however, disagrees. He contends that a kohen who eats on a fast day may receive an aliyah. He argues that the presence of 10 Jews in the synagogue who are fasting creates an obligation upon the congregation to read the special Keri’at HaTorah for fast days. This obligation is incumbent upon everyone in the synagogue, including those who aren’t fasting.
The Bach concedes that the common custom is not to grant an aliyah to someone who eats on a fast day, but he writes that a kohen may accept an aliyah if he is offered one (Tur, Orach Chayim 566; see Bet Tosef and Bach).
If a fast day falls out on Monday or Thursday, the Mishnah Berurah rules that a kohen who eats on that day may receive an aliyah at Shacharit since there would have been a Torah reading regardless of the fast. And the Torah reading on Mondays and Thursdays is obligatory on the entire congregation, even those who do not fast. Though some sages do not agree with this logic, there is a consensus that a kohen who isn’t fasting may accept an aliyah during Shacharit on those days (Mishnah Berurah, citing the Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim 566:19).
What about an aliyah at Minchah? The Mishnah Berurah favors the stringent position which maintains that reciting the Birkat HaTorah at Minchah would be considered a berachah levatalah for someone who isn’t fasting. Accordingly, if a kohen has eaten on a fast day and is the only kohen present in shul for Minchah, he should leave. The Mishnah Berurah, however, writes that if the kohen is a talmid chacham who, due to sickness or error, ate on the fast day and is ashamed to publicly indicate that he isn’t fasting, he may rely on the lenient position and accept an aliyah at Minchah (Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chayim 566:21).
The Aruch HaShulchan rules that all the limitations on kohanim who ate on fast days only pertain to non-official communal fast days. On a day like Tisha B’Av, however, everyone may receive an aliyah since on official fast days the community is obligated to hear Keri’at HaTorah (Orach Chayim 566:11 – this position appears to be based on the logic of the Bach).
The Chatam Sofer relates that one year, due to illness, he ate on Tisha B’Av. He notes that, based upon the position of the Bach, he should have no qualms about receiving an aliyah at Minchah. The Chatam Sofer also argues that observing a fast day is not an all or nothing proposition. A person who broke his fast is still not allowed to shower, bathe, or anoint himself with soothing oils. Accordingly, a person who ate on Tisha B’Av may receive an aliyah since he hasn’t rejected all the obligations of the day. He is still observing Tisha B’Av.
The Chatam Sofer writes that he consulted with great halachic decisors and they agreed with his reasoning (Responsa Chatam Sofer, Orach Chayim 157).