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Assuming the content is kosher, is it proper for one to read a newspaper or watch a (non-Tisha B’Av/Holocaust-related) video or read a book Tisha B’av afternoon?

 

Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier
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The halacha in Shulchan Aruch is that one should not divert his attention from mourning the entire day of Tisha B’Av. In our time, it has become difficult to think solely about the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Therefore anything related to the Exile would be appropriate, such as Holocaust works or material on the history of Jewish oppression – topics that makes it clear to the person that we don’t belong in Exile.

It would be wise to plan ahead of time – to find material that would be engaging and interesting so a person can spend the day properly. Certainly the various videos and programs that are put out specifically to be watched on Tisha B’Av are appropriate. But aside from that, there are many other items available – whether it be videos, books or historical novels that focus on these points.

I often find first-person Holocaust memoirs and diaries to be very moving and powerful. Each person has to find what works for them.

May this be the last Tisha B’Av that we sit on the floor. May we celebrate next year in Yerushalayim ha’benuyah.

– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz

 

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Rabbi Marc D. Angel

If people feel that they must focus the entire day of Tisha B’Av on sad topics, then they should do so.

There are traditions, though, that take a more relaxed view by early afternoon, when the theme turns from mourning to redemption. At about 1 p.m. or so, my mother, of blessed memory, would tell us: “It’s Nachamu time, no more sitting on the floor.”

Especially in our days, we should not ignore the new reality of a thriving Jewish State of Israel. Although we mourn the past destructions, we should temper our mourning with gratitude to the Almighty for enabling us to live at this special time. If on the afternoon of Tisha B’Av people wish to read materials other than those that focus on tragedy, let them do so.

Rabbi Haim David Halevy, late Sephardic chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, suggested that the Nachem prayer of Mincha on Tisha B’Av should be modified to reflect reality. The original text refers to Jerusalem as “the destroyed, humiliated and desolate city without her children,” a statement which is no longer true. He modified the text to refer to Jerusalem as “the city that was destroyed, humiliated and desolate without her children” (Aseh Lekha Rav 1:14; 2:36-39).

He also advised cutting down on the chanting of dirges, in recognition of the fact that things have changed dramatically for the better since the establishment of the Jewish State. We should not continue the same level of mourning as in the past.

– Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of the
Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

 

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Rabbi Zev Leff

On Tisha B’Av a central theme is for one not to divert his attention from the mournful motif of the day. Because of this one does not engage in any pursuit that would lead one to do so. The sefer Seder Hayom says it explicitly: “Even one who is in shul should not divert his heart and mind to converse in any topic other than those related to galus and churban or other tragedies that transpired in Jewish history that will break one’s heart and lower one’s spirits so that he doesn’t divert his attention from mourning.”

The Shulchan Shlomo says, “Regretfully many people are not careful with this and make Tisha B’Av into Simchas Torah. It is incumbent on the leaders of the community to devise means to discourage this behavior – surely one who conducts himself in such a manner will not merit to see the joy of rebuilt Yerushalayim.”

Thus, reading a newspaper or watching a video or reading a book – that is not of the variety that would enhance one’s mournful mindset, such as historical references to tragedies in Jewish history or Holocaust-related material, but are mere diversions to pass the time of the fast – would be prohibited as diverting one’s attention from the motif of the day.

Even mitzvah-related pursuits not necessary to be done on Tisha B’Av are not to be engaged in, nor are playing games, perusing family albums, reading newspapers, taking walks or visiting friends. Perhaps one should better go to sleep than engage in these pursuits, if he can’t properly engage his focus on the sadness of the day.

May we merit, in the zechus of properly mourning for the churban, to soon see the day when Tisha B’Av will be transformed into a true Yom Tov of joy and celebration with the coming of Mashiach.

– Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu,
popular lecturer and educator

 

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Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

Would one consider asking the question regarding Yom Kippur? While the two are not analogous, the shared uniqueness in the 25 hours of fasting reflects the awesomeness attributed to each. Whereas on Yom Kippur one spends the day in remorse for misdeeds and resolving to do better in the future, on Tisha B’Av one spends the time lamenting the churban haBayis and the long state of galus, and yearning for these days to be turned from sadness to joy.

I would say that if one really struggled to fast and distracting oneself through more mundane means helps, then provided it is appropriate content, so be it.

But it is the one day when one ought to appreciate what Chazal say: “One who mourns for the destruction of Yerushalayim will merit to rejoice in its restoration. One who does not mourn its destruction won’t merit to rejoice in its restoration.”

The very question itself reflects how complacent we have become with our current state of affairs. We need to desperately redress the balance, enhance our consciousness and indeed do all we can to bring about our final redemption – still before Tisha B’Av. May we indeed merit this speedily.

– Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch
lecturer, rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue

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