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Question: Since learning Torah on Tisha B’Av is forbidden, why are we allowed to read from the Torah at Shacharit and Mincha of Tisha B’Av? (And is an aveil also forbidden to learn Torah?)




Answer: To answer your second question first: The Mechaber (Yoreh De’ah 384:1, based on Mo’ed Katan 15a) writes, “During the entire seven-day period [of mourning], a mourner is forbidden to read from the Torah, Prophets, Writings, Mishnah, Gemara, halachot, and aggadot except if people need him to teach them.”

Similar halachot apply to Tisha B’Av (Orach Chayim 554:1). Why is a mourner forbidden to study or discuss Torah? The Shach (Orach Chayim, ad loc.) explains by citing Psalms (19:9): “Pikudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei lev, mitzvat Hashem barah me’eirat einayim – The commands of Hashem are right and gladden the heart; the commandment of Hashem is of such clarity that it enlightens the eyes.” Torah offers unique enjoyment and pleasure, which a mourner should not feel.

The Mechaber, though, cites a different source for this halacha. He cites Mo’ed Katan 15a, where we learn that a mourner is prohibited to utter words of Torah since Hashem stated, “He’anek dom – Sigh in silence” (Ezekiel 24:17). Hashem gave him these instructions despite the tragedies of the Jewish people and Ezekiel’s personal travails. Rabbeinu Chananel explains that the Gemara implies that only Ezekiel was supposed to mourn silently. Everyone else is supposed to mourn in an open, public manner.

The Gemara (Ta’anit 30a) states that all customary shiva restrictions apply to all Jews on Tisha B’Av, including children. In addition to not being able to eat or drink on Tisha B’Av, we may not wash or anoint ourselves, wear (leather) shoes, or engage in marital relations. We also may not read from the Torah, Prophets, or Writings, or study Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, halachot, or aggadot since “Pikudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei lev – The commands of Hashem are right; they gladden the heart” (Psalms 19:9).

We may, however, read what we usually don’t read. (Rashi [s.v. “B’makom she’eino ragil likrot”] explains that studying something beyond one’s familiarity and understanding actually causes one distress.) We may also read Kinot and Job and elegies in Jeremiah. R. Yehuda states that we may not even read portions in the Torah and Mishnah, etc. that we are not used to reading. The only exceptions are Kinot, Job, and elegies in Jeremiah.

Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 554:4) addresses reading the Torah in shul on Tisha B’Av morning and afternoon: It states, among other things, that one is permitted to read the mishnah of Eizehu Mekoman and the midrash of Rabbi Yishmael. And the Rema adds that one is allowed to review the parshah. Both the Ba’er Heitev and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc.) note that this ruling only applies to the ba’al keriah. His reading and advance preparation are obviously considered tzorech ha’tzibbur – a public need.

We pray and hope that in the merit of discussing these halachot, Hashem will have mercy on our people and redeem us speedily in our days.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.