Drinking Water on Tisha B’Av

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Guest post by R. Asher Bush

Rabbi Asher Bush is the rav of Congregation Ahavas Yisrael in Wesley Hills, NY and is a longtime member of the faculty at Frisch Yeshiva High School. He is the author of T’shuvos Sho’el B’Shlomo and serves as the Chairman of the Va’ad Halacha of the Rabbinical Council of America.

On one hand, I hate to give a group ruling about something that is so subjective/personal in terms of health and how a person is feeling. On the other, the temperature is expected to be very high in New York City and many people think that Tisha B’Av is the same as Yom Kippur, which it is not. The standard for permitting eating on Yom Kippur is possible danger; the standard for permitting eating on Tisha B’Av is Tzaar Gadol (great distress), that may be part of other sicknesses (e.g. migraine, flu, etc.) or in some cases caused by the fasting itself.

It should be noted, that as much as going to Shul and reciting Kinos is part of making Tisha B’Av a meaningful day, if health requires staying home, then one should do so. Related to this, if resting is necessary to enable a person to fast then they should do so and refrain from other activities, including the recitation of Kinos.

Clearly, activities should be limited and staying in the Shul or home with air-conditioning is appropriate. However, if a person feels that they may faint due to the heat and merely going into a properly air-conditioned location does not help, they should drink. Particular caution should be paid by older individuals. At the same time, Rav Avigdor Nebenzhal (Yerushalayim B’Moadeha, Tshuva #14) points out that working is not a reason to permit eating, even if the work causes difficulty in fasting.

It should be mentioned that a nursing mother who will not have enough milk for her child should have small amounts of beverages to prevent this; this is true whether the shortage of milk will be on Tisha B’Av or the next day (Rav Nebenzhal, ibid., #19). Related to this matter, Rav Nebenzahl also points out that a mother caring for children should not be in a position that she needs to eat due to her responsibilities. Rather, she should be assisted in the child care.

Most importantly, if there are any questions one should never hesitate to ask one’s Rav; if a person is exempt from fasting due for reasons of health it is generally neither a Mitzvah nor meritorious for them to fast.

About Asher Bush

Rabbi Asher Bush is the rav of Congregation Ahavas Yisrael in Wesley Hills, NY and is a longtime member of the faculty at Frisch Yeshiva High School. He is the author of Responsa Sho’el B’Shlomo and serves as the Chairman of the Va’ad Halacha of the Rabbinical Council of America.

15 comments

  1. You don’t mention the issue of “pachus m’k’shiur” – if a person needs to eat or drink something, should they try to consume less than a shiur as they would on Yom Kippur? I believe that on “minor” fast days there is no requirement of trying to eat less than a shiur; Is this true for tisha b’av?

  2. MiMedinat HaYam

    what about SA that permits sucking on cinnamon sticks (which can be interpreted to mean flavored gum) to quench thirst?

  3. danielshain: Apparently no, there’s no requirement of “shiurim” on Tisha B’Av.

    MMY: R’ Herschel Schachter allows for those Listerine strips. I know people take snuff on Yom Kippur, which could be precedent. (Is smoking allowed, if it is ever?)

  4. R. Eliezer Melamed on less than a shiur: http://ph.yhb.org.il/05-10-03/
    And on smoking (n. 11): http://ph.yhb.org.il/05-10-07/

  5. I was told that R. Hershel Schachter retracted his permission for Listerine strips. Ask your LOR.

  6. shachar haamim

    I don’t understand Rav Nebenzahl’s position regarding a mother? what if she can’t find someone appropriate to help watch the chidren? what if she can’t afford it?
    same for work issue – what if person can’t take off? In Israel Tisha B’av is on the list of days which a person is allowed by law to take as a vacation day (up to one such day per year), so I think he had more room to rule like this for a salarued employee. But there are still other situations.

  7. MiMedinat HaYam

    accepted halacha is that one can work on 9av (though “eino ro’eh siman bracha” ( = no benefit). issues of abilities vis a vis water / food is another story.

    shachar — in israel, workers must vote on one day off per year: “echad beMai” ( = may 1st) or 9av. this is a leftover from the socialist days. perhaps this law was abolshed since i last heard about it, but it was a communal worker decision, not an individual decision.)

    r gil — do listerine strips increase moisture in mouth? i dont think so, but i never tried it.

    nachum — smoking is discussed in halacha (both ways, but i think the tendency is if one can on yom tov, one can on fast day, except YK. not that yom tov is the critera, but thats the tendency.). what about this new european type of spitless chewing tobbaco that they’re now marketing in the US? (i guess it didnt reach israel yet, so you prob didnt hear of it. either way, i dont think it will catch on; definitely not in our circles.)

  8. “what if she can’t find someone appropriate to help watch the chidren?”

    I found the passive voice of “she should be assisted” odd but I assumed the primary assister should/would be the childrens’ father or another family member… (still does not address the very realistic “what if one parent can’t take off and they can’t find or afford a sitter?” question…)

    (on the maybe-the-father-should-help-the-mother-out-rahter-than-her-breaking-her-fast note,
    see http://www.yoatzot.org/question.php?id=7588
    “…I also will have to take care of my other 2 children all day so that my husband can be in shul most of the day. Do you have any thoughts on this? ”
    “…Toward this end, we suggest either engaging a baby-sitter or having your husband home after shacharit. Whereas you have a halachic obligation to fast, there is no halachic obligation to say kinot with a minyan or to stay in shul all day on Tishah B’Av, so facilitating your fast would be preferable. ”

    http://www.yoatzot.org/question.php?id=8797
    “I will be alone with my 3 & almost 2 year old on Yom Kippur; my husband will be in shul. I may go to a friend so that I have some backup, but she also has 4 young children (5 and under).”
    “Your fast on Yom Kippur takes halachic precedence over your husband’s davening in shul. He has a responsibility to help you get through the fast. Perhaps he can daven at an earlier minyan if you have one in your community, and come home for the rest of the morning to give you a break. You should also look into the possibility of hiring a babysitter. You should make it a priority to arrange such help in advance.”)

  9. I took his statement to mean that the husband must help his wife.

    You can work but the work is not a reason to break your fast.

  10. “It should be noted, that as much as going to Shul and reciting Kinos is part of making Tisha B’Av a meaningful day, if health requires staying home, then one should do so. Related to this, if resting is necessary to enable a person to fast then they should do so and refrain from other activities, including the recitation of Kinos”

    Similarly on Yom Kippur too many people attend schul when they are eating/drinking-even assuming one has a heter to eat/drink one must minimize such activity and certainly attending schul will cause eating/drinking more.
    Another reason why I can’t understand how people who I assume have a heter not to fast on Yom Kippur can be a shaliach zibbur on Yom Kippur.

  11. shachar haamim

    “shachar — in israel, workers must vote on one day off per year: “echad beMai” ( = may 1st) or 9av. this is a leftover from the socialist days. perhaps this law was abolshed since i last heard about it, but it was a communal worker decision, not an individual decision.)”

    The list in the law was expaned over the years – it now includes many other minor religious holidays and fast days as well as certain ethnic group holidays and holidays of minority religions as well as additional secular holidays and Jewish religious holidays which are not accepted as such by all religious Jews.
    You can see the list here
    http://www.nevo.co.il/law_html/law01/146_001.htm#Seif33

    the bottom line is that a salaried worker can “save” this vacation day for Tish B’Av. But there are other situations where someone may have to work and would be “anoos” and I don’t know that Rav Nebenzahl’s calculus applies – i.e. should be able to drink if needed to stay at work

  12. btw, the cite to r. melamed led me to the following, which is relevant to an earlier discussion of the status of the minor fasts. http://ph.yhb.org.il/05-07-08/

    in the earlier disucssion, some commenters, and perhaps r. gil, maintained that the widespread exemption of women from the minor fasts is unrelated to their status as “not real,” only customary fasts. R. Melamed thinks otherwise, though he still agrees that the custom is for able-bodied people to fast.

    אולם מן הצומות הקלים, נשים מעוברות ומיניקות פטורות. והטעם, מפני שמעיקר הדין הנביאים תקנו לצום בצומות הללו בשעה שיש על ישראל גזירות קשות, וכשאין גזירות קשות הצום תלוי ברצון ישראל, ואכן ישראל נהגו וקיבלו על עצמם לצום בהם עד שיבנה בית המקדש במהרה בימינו, אולם כבר מתחילה נהגו שמעוברות ומיניקות אינן צמות בהם, מפני שהצום קשה להן יותר.

  13. emma: I’m not sure if you realize that the same R. Eliezer Melamed wrote that post about the minor fasts.

  14. bah. totally forgot that. thanks. is it not still interesting that he sees widespread kulas as indicative of the nature of the minhag that was adopted?

  15. Emma: I think what you wrote is the same explanation given by the Mishnah Berurah, i.e. that since today the obligation to fast is based on minhag, the minhag that was accepted excluded pregnant and nursing women. (I have been told that Chassidim are particularly lenient on this, holding that any married woman of child bearing years qualifies.)

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