Tisha B’Av 101 for the Family

July 21, 2023
prayer at western wall in jerusalem

By Rabbi Ariel Platt, Director of J Life

Right smack in the heart of the summer falls the Jewish holiday, Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av). It commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem (586 BCE and 70 CE). Other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people are also attributed to this day, which is why it is considered a communal day of mourning. In fact for three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av it is tradition to be in a state of low level mourning, such as refraining from big celebrations like weddings, and not eating meat.

Central observances of Tisha B’Av include fasting, chanting from Megillat Eicha (the Book of Lamentations) with a special beautiful and haunting trope (melody), not bathing, not wearing leather, and abstaining from favorite activities. All of these practices are meant to evoke a sense of mourning and sadness, which can be hard for kids to understand, especially in the midst of summer.

Here are four ways to make Tisha B’Av meaningful and accessible for your kid(s):

  1. Food and “Fasting” – Kids don’t fast on Tisha B’Av, but encourage them for one day to not eat their favorite foods (maybe their second favorites), or if giving up all of their favorite foods for the day is too hard, encourage them to give up one. This will provide them with a similar experience.
  2. Frame Tisha B’Av as a Somber Day – Similar to “Fasting” above, encourage your kids to not do all their favorite activities. This can be hard if they are going to camp, but perhaps tell them to not wear their favorite clothes, not play all their normal games, or if they like art to draw one picture instead of ten. Try anything that will evoke a sense of sadness.
  3. Focus on the Value of Community (Kehillah) – Tisha B’Av is a day about community. As a community we are supposed to come together to mourn and remember our history. This is an opportunity to talk about and experience what it means to be part of a community. Questions you can ask are: 1) How can I support others in my community? 2) How can I help make my community strong? 3) What does it mean to have people rely on each other?
  4. Explore Ancient Israel – Since Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples, take the opportunity as a family to learn about the Temples. Explore together how we used to worship G-d, and the history of King Solomon who built the First Temple. There are many PJ Library books that can help lead your exploration.

There are many ways to find meaning in Jewish holidays and traditions. No matter what your family does, what is important is that you are experiencing it together. May this Tisha B’Av empower you with the values of community and tradition.


Sign up for our newsletter